Everything you need to know about the mustard allergy. What it is, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Includes a list of foods to avoid so you can stay safe!
The mustard allergy is one of the major 14 allergens in the world. In Europe, any food with mustard must be declared on the ingredients listing. They are a more rare allergen and it is unknown how many people have this allergy. However, for those who do have a mustard allergy, it can be severe.
While you may think that a mustard allergy means to just avoid putting mustard on your sandwiches, there are many other foods that use mustard in the forms of mustard leaves, seeds, flowers, oil, and cress. All are likely to cause an allergy to people allergic to mustard.
This article walks you through all aspects of a mustard allergy, symptoms, what to avoid, what you can still enjoy, and how best to manage your mustard allergy.
What is a Mustard Allergy
Mustard is a plant belonging to the Brassicaceae family, that is related to other cruciferous plants like broccoli and brussel sprouts.
An allergy occurs when the body is exposed to the mustard plant in any form and develops a strong IgE antibody response. This is the body’s own antibodies working to protect the body from something it sees as a threat, in this case the mustard. The body responds by triggering the immune system that has the different symptoms (see below) that can range from mild to life-threatening.
Mustard allergies in particular cause a lot of anaphylactic shock. If a person has a history of idiopathic anaphylaxis (anaphylactic attacks without a known cause) it is recommended that they be tested for a mustard allergy.
To learn more about allergies, check out my common food allergies article.
Symptoms of a mustard allergy
Most children and adults will develop an allergic reaction immediately, a few minutes, or a few hours after being exposed to mustard. Remember, some people are so allergic to certain foods that touching or even smelling the food can cause a reaction.
A list of possible reactions includes:
- Swelling, itching, or irritation of the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat
- Asthma attacks
- Eczema on the skin
- Hives, itching rash on the skin
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Cramping and/or pain of the stomach or bowels
- Anaphylactic reaction (see below)
Anaphylactic Mustard Allergy
For some people, a life-threatening reaction known as an anaphylactic reaction may occur after consuming, touching, or smelling mustard or mustard by-products. If this happens, please call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Signs and symptoms of this include:
- Swelling and tightening of the throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain or tightness
- Trouble swallowing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Change of normal coloring of the skin in the mucous membranes (inner lips, gums, around the eyes, and nail beds)
- Light skin, check for signs of a dark blue tint in the mucous membranes
- Medium skin, check for signs of a gray-green tint in the mucous membranes
- Dark skin, check for signs of a gray or white tint in the mucous membranes
How to manage mustard allergies
The best way to manage your mustard allergy is to avoid aany and all forms of mustard and mustard products.
If after sometime you feel you would like to test and see if you are still allergic to mustard, consult your doctor and ask about doing a challenge test to gauge your reaction under supervision of your doctor.
Being your own allergy advocate
If you are certain something is wrong, don’t give up! My primary care physician at the time was unconvinced I had developed new allergies in my late 20s. He assumed I was eating too much fast food and told me to take an antacid medication.
However, I was adamant in knowing that something was wrong and found a new allergy specialist. After testing, we discovered I had an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder! After a change of medication and diet, my health improved in weeks.
Be your own advocate at the doctor’s office and make sure you take someone with you to help navigate the medical field if you need.
What to avoid with a Mustard Allergy
The list of foods to avoid with mustard is short. I’ve included all the ones that I have discovered, but the list is always growing and changing. The longer list is for hidden sources of mustard as well as cross-reaction to mustard (See below).
If you are allergic to mustard, these are the foods to avoid:
- Mustard Seeds - white, yellow, and brown
- Mustard Powder
- Prepared Mustard - Dijon, Spicy, Brown, Gray Poupon, etc
- Mustard Greens
Hidden Sources of Mustard
Mustard can be found in a wide range of foods. It is commonly added to the following and you should use extreme caution when eating from this list:
- Barbecue Sauce
- Fish paste
- Tomato sauce
- Processed meats
- Potato chips
- Potato salads
- Salad dressing
- Salad oil
- Steamed greens
- Soups and Stocks
- Seasoning Mixes
- Mustard seed is a home remedy for stomach issues, used as a laxative, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties
If you have a mustard allergy, make sure you talk with your doctor to make sure none of your medications, either prescribed or over the counter, contain mustard.
Cross Reaction Foods to Avoid
People who are allergic to mustard also can be allergic to different foods not necessarily of the mustard daily. That is because the body thinks that the proteins to the allergen are so similar, that the body has a reaction as if you had ingested mustard. This is called cross-reactivity.
For people with mustard allergies, fruits, vegetables, and nuts seemed to have the most cross-reactions.
This list does not mean that if you have a mustard allergy you have to avoid these foods. This is a list of foods that could possibly cause a reaction.
If you are allergic to mustard and do not have a reaction, there is no need for you to remove these items from your diet. However, if you do react, the mustard allergy could be the underlying reason why.
People allergic to mustard are often allergic to other members of the botanical family of mustard, mainly to:
- Brussel sprouts
People have also reaction to the following:
- Hay fever
- Mugwort pollen
If you think you are having a cross-reaction with any of these foods, it is important to talk with your allergist to determine if it is a new allergy.
Dining out with Mustard Allergies
Perhaps the biggest change to your life with a mustard allergy will come from the options available to you when dining out. No longer can you grab a quick bite to eat and not have to check if things are safe.
The best way to avoid (or at least try to avoid) getting sick at restaurants is to research ahead of time. Most restaurants post their menus online, which will give you a change to figure out if this option would be a safe choice.
Even if the menu doesn’t say it includes mustard, you should still research. It can be difficult to ensure a chef or kitchen will wipe off any surfaces, open new bags of ingredients, or even use a different set of gloves when preparing food.
Call ahead with any questions. And if dining out isn’t an option, consider holding a dinner party at your place!