Cheatsheet: Are you allergic to your pumpkin spice latte?

Are You Allergic to Your Pumpkin Spice Latte? There's a Possibility This Fall Favorite Is a Health Hazard

Chelena Goldman | MORE ARTICLES

August 30, 2018

Nobody has to wait for the leaves to change color or for the temperatures to begin to dip. Once fall reaches that “in the near future” marker, everything gets injected with pumpkin spice. Yogurt, candles, expensive coffee drinks — you get the idea. But autumn’s biggest trend hasn’t just reached the point of overkill. It has also become a health hazard.

You heard that right. There are people out there who are allergic to products containing pumpkin spice. And the effects of its mass production aren’t good.

Suddenly worried your PSL is pummeling your health? Here’s what you need to know about this fall favorite and its connection to food allergies.

First, a quick look at pumpkin allergies

Let’s step away from fancy pumpkin spice for a second and look at the big orange fruit itself.

As Livestrong summarizes, individuals with a pumpkin allergy are typically allergic to the seeds. But other parts of the fruit can also have a negative effect on the body. “Touching the pulp or seeds can cause dermatitis or hives in sensitive individuals,” the article says. “Inhaling the vapors from cooking pumpkin can also produce allergic symptoms in sensitive people.” They also note that, while symptoms may be mild, repeat exposure can result in anaphylaxis, in which case epinephrine needs to be administered.

Who does this allergy affect?

This allergy has gotten a lot of attention in recent years due to the rise in pumpkin products on the market every fall. And it’s particularly concerning for children with this allergy. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says children who are allergic to pumpkin may have a reaction from eating products such as pumpkin pie, or even from carving a pumpkin before Halloween. Children with a more severe allergy may show symptoms after being close to freshly-carved pumpkin due to breathing in pumpkin particles in the air.

Since this allergy isn’t very well-known, parents may dismiss coughing and wheezing during pumpkin carving time as signs of a cold. But Urgent Clinics Medical Care warns letting these symptoms go can make them much worse, especially with longer pumpkin exposure.

Keeping out of contact with pumpkin and pumpkin-made products becomes extra crucial this fall since the FDA reported earlier this year there is a shortage of epinephrine.

How the PSL trend can have a negative impact

For starters, no — traditional “pumpkin pie spice” doesn’t have actual pumpkin in it. It’s essentially cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. So it’s unlikely burning a pumpkin spice candle in your home is going to make anyone sick. However, many popular pumpkin-spice themed products contain bits of actual pumpkin in them. And this is where the trend becomes a problem.

One such product to be aware of? You probably already guessed it — the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. The sauce used in the widely popular fall drink has pumpkin puree in it. While that may not seem like enough to fuel an allergic reaction, it could be a problem for anyone with a not-yet-realized pumpkin allergy.

The key to safely navigating the maze of foods and products containing this big orange fruit is, thankfully, pretty simple. It’s important to read as many labels as you can before ordering or serving pumpkin spice products to see if there is actual pumpkin in them. Erring on the side of caution may ensure that you and everyone around you has a safe and allergy-free fall season.