Can you be allergic to sunflower seeds? Ummm, yes! Yes you can.
Did you know that of all my allergies, a sunflower allergy is the hardest to manage? It isn’t in the top 8 or the top 9 or even in Europe’s wonderful top 14. That’s because it isn’t all that common, but it shows up in so so so many places, including many free from brands.
Since an allergy to sunflower seeds and sunflower oil is quite unusual a lot of people doubt it is “real”. I encounter many people (even in the allergy community) who have a hard time believing it is possible to have a sunflower allergy. But it’s real and I have the stories to prove it.
Defending my sunflower seed allergy
Sunflower Allergy Rash for 3 months
When I was 16 I did a student exchange to France. The exchange family was informed about my food allergies. Plus their daughter had already stayed with us for 3 months, so she knew about them first hand. Needless to say, they did not believe in all of my allergies. Peanuts, sure that’s common. But sunflower seeds and oil? Couldn’t be. Plus this allergy was extremely inconvenient to their cooking routine.
The whole time I was with the family, I had constant rashy hives and could not for the life of me figure out why. I had antihistamines and hydrocortisone cream with me, but they didn’t seem to help because when I stopped the hives just came back!
I remember talking to my parents on the phone expressing my concern and how I thought the laundry detergent was causing it. The last week of my exchange, I walked into the kitchen as my exchange-mom was preparing lunch and saw her using sunflower oil! Mystery solved. My constant rash was caused by them using sunflower oil.
Hives for days
It’s funny how I blame things other than food for my mystery hives. Like the time I was staying at my sister’s house. I used her olive oil, which looked all fancy and gourmet. I trusted she would never buy mixed oil (this is why you never assume and always read the labels). I had prepared a lot of food with the ‘olive oil’ while visiting her and to take with as my mom and I were heading on a road trip to NYC.
The whole time I was at my sister’s and the first day we were in NYC I was covered in hives. Neither my mom or I could figure out what was going on. That was until my sister called and asked if I had used the olive oil at her house. I had. On the other side of the line, I could hear her concern of how it was half olive and half sunflower!
It was not my face cream after all, which was the only thing we could think would be causing the hives even though I had been using it for years. Another sunflower allergy rash solved.
Facing the sunflower allergy doubters
Somehow I always feel I need to tell these two stories whenever someone questions if my sunflower allergy is real. And I have even more ready in case they still doubt me. If you are curious check out why you should never trust restaurant table oil.
Being questioned about an allergy can be really frustrating, especially when you can tell they don’t believe you at all. Living with food allergies that aren’t in the top 8 or 14 makes me encounter a lot more doubters. I like to keep it positive and educational when I have to defend myself, however sometimes I need to whip out my favourite line: “trust me I would love to not have to worry about reading ingredients all the time”.
How to manage an uncommon allergy
If you have an uncommon allergy the advice I can give you is to stick up for yourself. People may doubt you, but don’t doubt yourself. And as always use this as an opportunity to educate. Remember when you talk about food allergies you are acting as an advocate for the whole community. You never know who the person you are talking to will meet next, it may just be another person with an unusual food allergy like you!
Kortney is your typical atopic triad who manages asthma, eczema and multiple food allergies. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host of The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!