An allergic reaction occurs when we come into contact with a substance that the immune system recognizes as foreign. Under such circumstances, the immune system produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, which in turn, release certain substances that activate mast cells. Mast cells are subcutaneous immune cells that release histamines so as to fight off the pathogens or allergenic substances. It is the release of histamines that brings about an allergic reaction.
Tree pollen, grass pollen, poison ivy, dust, chemicals or pet dander are some of the common environmental allergens that may cause an allergy. Shellfish, soy, wheat, dairy products, gluten, peanuts and various other food items can also cause an allergic reaction in some people. Some people may also be allergic to nuts and even seeds. In this article, we will look into symptoms of sunflower seed allergy along with treatment options for the same.
Sunflower Seed Allergy
The health benefits of sunflower seeds are many. No wonder, many people use sunflower seeds as well as sunflower oil for culinary purposes. Sunflower seeds contain many essential nutrients, which is why, these figure in the list of healthy snacks. It is often sprinkled over salads and used for the purpose of garnishing breads or other baked products. Though allergic reactions to sunflower seeds are not very common, there have been instances of people suffering from an allergic reaction after ingesting sunflower seeds.
Well, it all boils down to what one's immune system regards as foreign. Moreover, allergenic potential of sunflower pollen or seed dust may be high. Thus, some people may develop an allergic reaction on being exposed to sunflower pollen as well as sunflower seed dust. Those who suffer from a nut allergy may be at a greater risk of developing an allergic reaction on ingesting sunflower seeds.
Hives, swollen lips, swollen tongue and facial swelling are some of the common symptoms seen in people with allergy to sunflower seeds. If the respiratory tract and the mucus membranes get affected by the exposure to this allergen, one may experience symptoms such as wheezing, labored breathing, shortness of breath, runny eyes, watering of eyes or itching.
One may also experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain. Some people may develop an anaphylactic shock due to ingestion of sunflower seeds or inhalation of sunflower seed dust. In absence of timely medical assistance, such a hypersensitivity reaction can even lead to death.
For preventing any kind of allergy, the most important step that needs to be taken is to avoid the allergen. Skin prick testing and certain blood tests can help in determining whether one is allergic to certain food items. One may also be put on an elimination diet so as to identify the foods one may be allergic to. As is the case with any allergy, the best way to prevent allergy to sunflower seeds would be to refrain from consuming them. One must also avoid foods that may contain sunflower seeds. Since the allergic reaction is associated with the release of histamines, doctors usually recommend the use of antihistamines and other allergy medicines so as to provide allergy relief.
The treatment approach is usually symptomatic. For instance, use of bronchodilators would be prescribed for a patient suffering from breathing problems. Other drugs would be prescribed if one is suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms. An anaphylactic shock is a medical emergency, and the patient needs immediate medical attention. The patient would need to be hospitalized, and administered certain drugs and fluids intravenously. Usually, adrenaline injections are administered so as to prevent complications. Oxygen therapy may also be required if the patient is suffering from respiratory distress.
Doctors may sometimes resort to immunotherapy for treating allergies. Immunotherapy involves administration of allergy injections that contain the allergenic substance in small quantities. The dosage of the substance would be gradually improved. Once maximum dose is administered, maintenance injections are given so as to desensitize or train the body's immune system to the allergen. However, immunotherapy is not considered as a conventional treatment and may not be resorted to, in case of all allergies.
Allergen avoidance is the most important measure that can help in preventing an allergic reaction. If ingestion of sunflower seeds causes an allergic reaction, make sure that you refrain from consuming foods that contain sunflower seeds. When it comes to the treatment of allergic reaction to food, it is drug therapy coupled with self-care measures that can certainly help in alleviating the symptoms.