Pumpkin seeds are nutrient-dense and delicious but, unfortunately, can cause allergic reactions in some people. While allergies to pumpkin seeds are not as common as other seeds such as sesame — one of the top nine food allergens — reactions can range from mild to life-threatening.
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If you think you have an allergy to pumpkin seeds, read on to learn about causes, symptoms, related allergies and treatment options.
Pumpkin Seed Allergy Symptoms
Allergies to pumpkin seeds often affect the skin but can also cause more serious symptoms that affect your breathing and even lead to a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis shock.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of a pumpkin seed allergy, according to the London Allergy and Immunology Center:
- Skin rash and itching
- Itchy mouth and throat
- Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
If you're having a severe allergic reaction to pumpkin seeds, including swelling of the lips, mouth or tongue, difficulty breathing, slurred speech or irregular heartbeat, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.
Raw or roasted pumpkin seeds can be added to salads, appetizers, bread, and used as toppings on soups and main courses.
Pumpkin seeds are also commonly ground up and combined with water to create fishing bait. Fishermen who are regularly exposed to bait derived from pumpkin seeds have a higher risk of developing pumpkin seed allergies, per the London Allergy and Immunology Center.
Sensitivity to other seeds or members of related foods can also increase your risk of pumpkin seed allergies.
If you have an allergy to pumpkin seeds, you could also be at a higher risk of an allergy to other related foods. Cross-reactivity can cause reactions in related seeds, pulps and plants.
Here are some foods you could potentially also be allergic to, specifically members of the Rosacea family, per a June 2016 review article in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology:
There's also (rare) potential for an allergy to pumpkin pulp if you have a pumpkin seed allergy. In this case, you could also react to other members of the Cucurbitaceae family, including:
Once an allergist confirms that you have a pumpkin seed allergy, the best way to avoid symptoms is by avoiding the seeds and anything made with pumpkin seeds.
As pumpkin seeds are often used as garnishes, it's important to relay this information to your restaurant server and carefully read ingredient lists on packaged foods.
If your symptoms are mild and include a rash, itching or mild swelling, an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl ($4.84, Amazon) can help counteract the allergic reaction.
If you experience a severe reaction from eating pumpkin seeds, seek emergency help as this could require an epinephrine injection. Talk to your doctor about carrying an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) if you've had a life-threatening reaction to pumpkin seeds in the past.