Cottonseed oil is oil extracted from cotton plant seeds, specifically the Gossypium herbaceum and hirsutum species of cotton. As one of several genetically modified crops--like canola, soy and corn--cotton plants and the cottonseed oil extracted from this modification can be found in many salad dressings, oils and mayonnaises. Consumption of cottonseed oil should be monitored because it is high in omega-6 fatty acids and may increase the risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. While an allergy to cottonseed oil is not a frequent occurrence, individuals experiencing a reaction may have symptoms involving both the skin and respiratory system.
According to the website Allallergy, the source of cottonseed oil's allergen is the 2S protein. As a water-soluble protein, the 2S albumin storage protein contains structural, functional and biochemical properties responsible for determining its possible allergenicity. A review article published in the February 2008 edition of the “Open Biochemistry Journal” notes that 2S are highly stable proteins that are influenced by cysteine residues and retain the strength to cross over acidic stomach mucous barriers to cause inflammation to the mucosal immune system, which provokes an allergic reaction in certain individuals.
Allergic Reactions and the Skin
Allergic reactions caused by the 2S proteins coming in contact with skin include atopic dermatitis and, in severe cases, minor swelling or hives. Individuals suffering from atopic dermatitis caused by cottonseed oil will experience patches of red, itchy, flaky skin, with the insides of knees and elbows prone to this type of allergic reaction if exposure is wide-spread over the body. Sometimes this allergic reaction is mistaken for psoriasis, which initiate the wrong type of treatment. If recent dermal contact with cottonseed oil is followed by an incidence of atopic dermatitis, it should be treated accordingly by washing the area and giving an antihistamine if necessary.
Respiratory and Digestive Reactions
Ingesting cottonseed oil by someone allergic to the 2S protein may cause asthma-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, bronchospasms and diarrhea. Bronchospasms are abnormally strong contractions of the bronchi muscles, which cause airways to narrow and obstruct the normal process of breathing. Lung lining inflammation is another cause, seen mostly in bronchitis, asthma and allergic reactions. Coughing usually accompanies bronchial spasms as the individual tries to clear airways to take in enough oxygen
In severe allergic reactions to cottonseed oil, hypotension, or low blood pressure, may occur, potentially leading to unconsciousness and shock. Hypotension is the result of the brain and the heart not receiving enough blood to continue functioning normally. When the severity of hypotension becomes life-threatening, it is called anaphylactic shock and necessitates immediate intervention by medical specialists. Although anaphylaxis is rare during allergic reactions, mild forms of hypotension are not, due to the sudden reaction of the immune system to the invading allergen.