Some food allergies are very difficult and frustrating to work around, like eggs or dairy products. Others, such as nuts and sunflower seeds, are less challenging. Still, nuts and seeds are found in a surprising number of common foods and other products, and anyone with an allergy should be diligent in learning about them.
A food allergy is a malfunction of your body's immune system, causing your own body to attack itself. It's triggered when your immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food, referred to as an allergen, as a threat to your health. Your body overreacts by generating antibodies to fight this phantom threat, which in turn causes reactions ranging from a few hives to full scale, life threatening anaphylactic shock.
The Food and Drug Administration has identified eight specific foods as the most common allergens reported in America, accounting for approximately 90 percent of all known cases. Tree nuts are one of those eight. Tree nuts are the seeds of various trees and shrubs, harvested and appreciated for their flavor, high quality protein and healthy unsaturated fats. They're unrelated to peanuts, which are from the legume family, like beans and peas. It is possible to be allergic to some nuts but not others, since nuts contain many different proteins and any one could be your specific allergen.
Sunflower Seed Allergies
Seed allergies are less common than nut allergies, and they are not among the FDA's list of eight most common allergens. The most frequent offenders are poppy seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Although it's not common, seed allergy can be very serious, and anaphylaxis is a risk. As with any other food allergy, it's important to be vigilant and question the contents of any processed food you eat.
Nuts and seeds can sometimes be difficult to avoid. A high percentage of sweets are produced in factories that also work with nuts or seeds, so cross-contamination is always a hazard. Nuts and sunflower seeds are also commonly used in bakeries, and trace quantities can be found on almost anything commercially baked unless they are produced in an allergen-free facility. Sunflower seed extracts can be found in some hair care products, and sunflower oil is commonly used in cooking and baking.
- Clinical and Translational Allergy: Sunflower Seed Allergy in a Child Reveloping After Sensitization to Sunflower Pollen or Dust
- Allergy: Anaphylaxis to Lipid Transfer Protein From Sunflower Seeds
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Food Allergies: What You Need to Know
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States -- Summary for Patients, Families, and Caregivers