Upper airway edema resulting from use of Ecballium elaterium.

Research paper by G G Kloutsos, D G DG Balatsouras, A C AC Kaberos, D D Kandiloros, E E Ferekidis, C C Economou

Indexed on: 25 Sep '01Published on: 25 Sep '01Published in: The Laryngoscope


To present a rare occurrence in ear, nose and throat practice of upper airway allergic edema from use of juice extracted from the fruit of Ecballium elaterium.Ecballium elaterium is a plant indigenous to the Mediterranean region that bears the common name squirting cucumber. Many people in this region for the treatment of sinusitis use the juice of its fruit. However, allergy-prone patients after using it may sometimes present with edema at various sites of the upper respiratory tract. Otolaryngologists are frequently asked to diagnose and treat such an emergency situation.Retrospective review of the records of 42 patients with this condition during the last 4 years.Patient records were retrospectively reviewed for age, sex, presenting symptoms, physical examination, and medical treatment. Seasonal distribution and data from the history of the patients were also considered. Skin prick and prick-to-prick testing to various allergens was performed in 12 patients.Most of the patients presented with localized swelling of the uvula and the nasal mucosa, whereas in the remainder of the patients various sites of swelling of the upper respiratory tract were observed. Skin tests elicited positive reactions to pollen weeds and to various fruits of the Cucurbitaceae family. Treatment of the patients with corticosteroids and antihistamines resulted in an uneventful recovery, and we did not need to resort to therapeutic modalities, such as intubation or tracheotomy.We think a further study of the pharmaceutical properties of the plant's fruit juice is needed, especially regarding its curative properties of rhinitis and sinusitis. However, adverse reactions in some patients with a positive history of allergy should always be considered.