Sesame seed allergy factsheet


Allergic reactions to sesame products, including seeds and oil, can develop at any age but usually show up for the first time before your child is three.

Some children will grow out of their sesame allergy; however, it will most likely continue throughout their life.

Like any other allergy, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor before reintroducing foods that have caused an allergic reaction.

 Signs and symptoms

Allergic reactions can be fast, showing up within minutes to a couple of hours after eating or drinking a food that contains sesame products.

Reactions can include:

  • hives or welts
  • redness of the skin
  • vomiting and abdominal pain
  • tingling and swelling of the mouth, lips, face, and eyes.

Some children can have a more severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.

Signs of anaphylaxis include: 

  • wheezing, difficult, or noisy breathing 
  • swelling of the tongue
  • swelling or tightness in the throat
  • a persistent cough
  • difficulty talking or a hoarse voice
  • dizziness
  • becoming pale and floppy in young children
  • collapsing.

If your child has signs of anaphylaxis, you should:

  • follow your child’s ASCIA action plan for anaphylaxis if you have one
  • use an EpiPen® or Anapen®, if there is one available
  • call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.

See your local doctor as soon as possible if your child is showing signs and symptoms of a sesame allergy for the first time. 

Symptoms of mild allergic reactions should fade over time but see your doctor as soon as possible if they persist or you are concerned.


If you think your child has had an allergic reaction to sesame seeds that is not anaphylaxis, write down the following and see your local doctor as soon as possible:

  • type and amount of sesame product eaten
  • time sesame product was eaten
  • time of reaction
  • type of reaction.

A specialist doctor can diagnose a sesame seed allergy based on your child’s:

Some children will grow out of their sesame seed allergy. 

A food challenge can be done to figure out whether your child has grown out of their allergy and whether sesame seeds can be reintroduced to their diet safely. Food challenges are done under the supervision of a doctor in the hospital.


Your child's doctor will find the best possible treatment for their allergy based on their individual health needs. In most cases, your child must carefully avoid sesame seeds in their diet. 

Children at risk of anaphylaxis need: 

  • an ASCIA action plan 
  • an adrenaline injector, also known as an EpiPen® or Anapen®.

Your child will also need to learn how to identify foods that contain sesame seeds as they get older and become more independent with their diet.


Common sources of sesame

Sesame is a common garnish and seasoning for food, so it can be difficult to avoid. 

Some foods will also visibly include sesame seeds, for example, bread rolls, pasteli (Greek sesame seed pastries) and Jian dui (Chinese sesame seed balls). 

It can also be in other products like:

  • rice and noodle dishes - for example, sesame oil for frying or seeds as a garnish
  • baked goods like bagels, multigrain breads, and crackers
  • dips and spice mixes like hummus, za’atar and dukkha
  • snacks like muesli bars, pretzels, and protein balls
  • sushi
  • salads and dressings.

Sesame products might be known by different names, including:

  • benne or benne seed
  • gingelly seeds or oil
  • sesame oil 
  • til or til oil
  • gomashio - sesame seed and salt
  • sesamol - the main antioxidant found in sesame
  • sesamolin
  • simsim
  • tahina - a paste made with hulled sesame seeds
  • tahini - a paste made with unhulled sesame seeds.

Sesame, food labels and eating out

It is important to always check the package and ingredient list of all foods your child eats.

In Australia, allergens are shown in bold each time they appear in an ingredient list. Packaged foods may have a warning on the label that "may contain traces of sesame seeds".

This means the food is made in a facility that also makes foods that contain sesame seeds. 

Talk to your child’s doctor about whether these foods are safe.

Always tell the staff that your child has a sesame seed allergy when eating out. This will help you find safe foods and avoid contamination. 

If you cannot confirm that food does not contain sesame seeds, it is safest for your child to avoid it.


Some children are more at risk of having a sesame allergy. 

Risk factors include:

The most important thing you can do is support your child in avoiding sesame seeds in their diet. You can also educate your child, family, and friends about allergies, reactions, and what to do in an emergency.

Parents of younger children will need to read ingredient lists and learn to find sesame seeds in foods and drinks.

Older children can be supported in learning to read ingredient lists and find sesame seeds in foods. 

This can help keep children safe and encourage them to be more independent and confident about their diet and health as they grow.

Resources and more information

The Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

The Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Provides resources including fact sheets, e-training and information on locating allergy specialists.
Related Links
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia - Your trusted charity for allergy support

Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Phone1300 728 000
Provides valuable updates and tips for dealing with food allergies.
Related Links
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ)

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ)

Part of the Australian Government's Health portfolio and provides detailed information on food labelling.
Related Links
Last updated Tuesday 12th March 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024