Mustard allergies and intolerances are quite common; it is only in recent years that they are starting to become more widely recognised. Whilst mustard can have health benefits for some people, others can have a severe reaction, possibly life threatening. The question is, how to recognise mustard allergy symptoms.

Common Symptoms

Reactions to mustard can be amongst the most severe ranging from mild discomfort to anaphylactic shock. In severe cases the sufferer must be carefully observed and the possibility of them requiring medical attention should never be dismissed. Anaphylactic shock can be fatal if not treated quickly.

So what symptoms might I see?

These may appear within just a few minutes or develop over an hour or two and include…

— Itching and skin rashes

— Hives, which are blotchy red rashes like nettle rash

— Breathing difficulties may develop, wheezing and nasal congestion may be the first indication

— Swelling of the face, lips, tongue and throat may require immediate medical attention.

— Light-headedness, dizziness and feeling faint

— Nausea and abdominal pain may be signs, followed by diarrhoea and vomiting.

Anyone with swelling around the face and throat should receive special observation whilst medical attention is sought. Be aware of difficulty in breathing, an indicator that the airways are closing as the throat swells. They may exhibit a fast and irregular pulse and begin to show signs of shock. In some cases, this may be followed by a drop in blood pressure and a loss of consciousness.

People who already suffer from breathing difficulties such as asthma will be particularly susceptible to complications if they have a mustard allergy or intolerance.

In what foods might I find mustard?

Mustard can be introduced into food at any stage and it is therefore sometimes very difficult if not impossible to detect by just looking at a plate of food. The ingredients list is a good starting point but this relies upon diligence and commitment on the part of the recipe creators and the ingredients list compiler. Mustard is included in many spicy foods, not just as a condiment on hot dogs.

Allergy and intolerance sufferers should avoid mustard seeds, mustard powder, mustard greens including some members of the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips and other varieties). Some mustard allergy sufferers also have a reaction to rapeseed.

Mustard may be an ingredient in some foods such as

— Ketchups, sauces and mayonnaise and marinades

— Salads and salad dressings as an oil or seed

— Mustard leaves, mustard and cress and mustard oil

— Sausages, salamis and other prepared meats

— Processed meats

— Soups and stocks

— Many seasonings and flavourings

— Spicy foods, including some pizzas and curries

— Fish sauces and fish paste

— Pickles and condiments

This list is not exhaustive, there can be many more foods that may contain mustard. The ingredients list should always be checked and most food manufacturers are now very good at listing all the ingredients. If a full ingredients list is not available such as when buying in a delicatessen, a supermarket meat counter or a fast food takeaway, then you must ask. Most will now have a book that lists all the ingredients.


Mustard in all its forms can cause reactions ranging from mild discomfort to severe life-threatening issues and should always be taken seriously. Various tests are available and your medical practitioner may be a good starting point if this type of allergy is suspected. For severe cases, once diagnosed, a small hypodermic injector containing an adrenaline compound may be prescribed for use when a reaction begins. But the best way to not have a reaction is to avoid all foods that contain mustard. It is not enough to hope for the best, if you cannot be absolutely certain that mustard is not an ingredient then the best advice is to avoid that food.

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