Halloween is approaching. Isn’t it so? Have you ever known about the hidden truth behind pumpkin? Sometimes, you might not. In this article let’s dive into pumpkin allergy giving highlights on the hidden facts. Pumpkin is such a vegetable you can have for a diverse range of preparations using its flesh and even seeds. It is a symbolic fruit that is used by children to carve jack-‘o’-lanterns for Halloween; the night of horror or at a farewell as a thanksgiving pie filling.

You may come across pumpkin in most of the recipes. For example, pumpkin cakes, pudding, butter, cookies, soup, muffins, bread, bars, spiced ups, shakes, lattes, squares, pancakes, flams, chili, and yes of course even lasagna. In most cases, you may be OK after consumption, however, some of you may have experienced a few embarrassments after tasting them. Especially, the sensitized individuals.

Indeed, one of the most burdening questions will be, does pumpkin is allergic to everyone always and do we need to wave goodbye to such unforgettable recipes. Of course not. Pumpkin allergy is a very rare condition one could observe in their life journey. Accordingly, there is no necessity of having to stay away from your favorite pumpkin plate or glass, unless you cannot observe any irregularity after consumption.

Let’s peep into the history of pumpkin allergy.

History of pumpkin allergy

There are only three cases in the medical literature. These are especially due to the consumption of pumpkin flesh. In brief, the incidents are as follows (1).

  1. After consuming a pumpkin soup – Had developed anaphylaxis after consumption.
  2. An 18 year old individual after consuming a pumpkin cake -Developed shortness of breath, throat tightness and itching. The blood allergy test for pumpkin was positive. Epinephrine and observations in the hospital were needed.
  3. An 8-year-old boy who rubbed his hands against his eyes after carving a pumpkin – tested positive for the skin test.

Furthermore, there are about 4 cases relating to pumpkin allergy due to the consumption of pumpkin seeds. Two of them are as follows (1).

  1. In Spain, a 33 year old man who consumed toasted pumpkin seeds experienced a difficulty breathing, facial swelling and redness. This has happened repetitively. Furthermore, the skin test for pumpkin was positive for him.
  2. In Switzerland – After consuming a few pumpkin seeds (10 g), a 11 year old child was to suffer from anaphylaxis. Even though his skin test for pumpkin was negative, he had developed symptoms such as swelling, asthma and hives.

First of all, let’s see what is pumpkin and how is it made up of.

What is a pumpkin?

As you all know pumpkin is a popular vegetable you could find in most Western recipes. It is a certain variety of squash (2) belonging to the family ‘Cucurbitaceae’. They can be found most often in deep yellow to orange in coloration of the thick shell. Inside the thick shell, you could find the fleshy part with seeds. Both the flesh and seeds are edible. It is a low calory dense vegetable but bears a highly nutritious profile hefty in vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers.

Pumpkin is a well-known source of beta carotene which is a powerful antioxidant and Vitamin C and E as well. This is helpful in reducing the potential of any type of cancer, age-related muscular degeneration and providing protection against heart diseases and asthma (2).

Furthermore, recent scientific findings have revealed that consuming pumpkin will contribute to reducing blood pressure, diabetes, overall mortality and for the sake of your hair and for a fair complexion. Moreover, additional benefits include good hair and eye health. It will help in reducing obesity to a certain extent and

Next, let’s see how to identify if you are having a predisposition to pumpkin allergy.

How do you know if you are allergic to pumpkins?

Pumpkin allergy symptoms include different symptoms for different persons. Accordingly, it is clear that pumpkin allergy is something rare to happen. An individual may trigger symptoms such as swollen eyelids, itchy eyes, chest tightness and sneezing (3). The symptoms can occur after you eat a pumpkin or carve a pumpkin. However, it should be kept in mind the allergy may be tricky in most cases to identify, or else it may be something unnecessary to worry about.

When it comes to pumpkin allergy skin, you may wonder if there a rash can also be triggered.

Can pumpkins give you a rash?

Yes of course it can. This is especially if you are exposed to a pumpkin carving. Raw pumpkin flesh can cause a skin reaction. On the other hand, it is somewhat safe to eat pumpkins. This is because cooking can alter the proteins causing allergic reactions to occur making it safer to eat than in the raw form.

You may have even searched for pumpkin intolerance as well. Even though you have experienced a pumpkin allergy, it is not severe as to cause intolerance.

Pumpkin intolerance

First of all, let’s see what is the actual difference between pumpkin allergy and pumpkin intolerance. Though it seems similar, the root cause for the occurrence is different from a scientific point of view.

What is a food allergy?

Think that you have eaten a food item that is having a component allergic to you. Forget about pumpkins for a while. There are severe allergies causing foods such as soy, milk, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, fish and shellfish, etc. (4).

In an allergic condition, your body’s immune system mistakes the components of the food you consumed as harmful and starts producing antibodies against it. Subsequently, the allergic symptoms triggered as skin reactions (hives, rash, itchy skin), diarrhea, stomach pain, shortness of breath, anaphylaxis, and chest pain, etc. However, it should be noted that most food allergies are mild and cause a minor risk while some are severe and life-threatening.

What is food intolerance?

Food intolerance is beyond a food allergy. This is a result due to a compound in a food or a whole food irritating your digestive system or else due to an inability to properly digest the food you consumed. Subsequently, it triggers symptoms somewhat the same as a food allergy. Primary gastrointestinal symptoms include stomach pain, bloating, gas cramps, vomiting, heartburn and diarrhea (4).

For example, Lactose intolerance is the most prominent type of food intolerance and it is due to the absence of digesting enzymes in an individual for proper digestion of lactose found in dairy products. Unlike food allergies, the dose is a fact that matters here. Food intolerance may not be prominent unless you consumed a large amount of the particular food item that you are intolerant to. In case of food allergies, you may trigger symptoms even with a small dose of ingestion.

Is there a method to check whether you are having pumpkin allergy or not?

Pumpkin allergy test

You can test against a blood sample, to test whether if you are allergic to pumpkin or not. If you are interested in the course, especially with no painful skin pricks, no fasting and if in a requirement for accurate results within 1-3 days you can try this pumpkin allergy test. However, it is recommended to meet your family doctor if you are feeling an allergic condition or a requirement to diagnose what is going on with your body and are not sure how to deal with it irrespective of the food item that you had consumed.

Moreover, you would love to know how to best treat the pumpkin allergy.

Pumpkin allergy treatment

In case of a rash or nasal allergic condition caused by pumpkin and if you are not in an emergency, oral antihistamines would be the best option to have relief (5). It is normally recommended to have less drowsy antihistamines if you are not exactly sure which one to choose from the pharmacy. For example, with Cetrizine, Loratadine, Fexofenadine, and Levocetirizine (5) you can have your routine without getting sleepy.

Pumpkin allergy cross-reactivity

If you are a victim of pumpkin allergy, you may have observed that you have a cross-sensitization to some sort of foods from the Rosacea, Cucurbitaceae family, and pollens as well. For example, there is clinical cross-reactivity that had been reported among pumpkin, pumpkin seeds and watermelon, muskmelon, zucchini and cucumber (6). With the context, it is a popular question that comes to your mind. Let’s have answers for that as well.

Can you be allergic to pumpkin and not squash?

Pumpkin is belonging to the family Cucurbitaceae and it is where the other melons, gourds and squashes belonging to. If you are a sensitized individual to pumpkin leading to allergies, there is a potential of being allergic to such squash, melons, gourds, etc. as well. Accordingly, it is good to clarify whether you are allergic to pumpkins or not and select the other food items accordingly to eat.

Bottom line

Pumpkin is a popular vegetable you could find in many cuisines of the European style and it is one of the winter staples such as Pumpkin spiced lattes. However, some individuals may be sensitized to pumpkin flesh and even seeds in most cases if they are consumed raw or in contact during carvings. For such individuals, cooked pumpkin is safer to eat than raw ones. Pumpkin allergy may trigger symptoms such as skin reactions (itchy skin, rashes and hives), swollen eyelids, chest tightness and sneezing.

However, when looking through the history of pumpkin allergy it is clear that the occurrences are very rare, and hence in the majority, it may be something not to worry about as well. In doubt, you can have your blood tested to diagnose if it is due to a pumpkin allergy or not. As treatments in non-emergent situations, you can try some oral antihistamines. Be careful to have less drowsy to keep your busy days active and not to sleep.

Furthermore, it is highly recommended to contact your family doctor in case of any type of severe allergy or intolerance than having medications of your own will.

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