Does eating fruits and veggies cause you discomfort in the mouth or throat? If so, you may have something called oral allergy syndrome (OAS). With OAS, you may experience itching, tingling, or swelling of the lips, mouth, or throat when you eat raw fruits or vegetables.
What is going on behind the scenes in your body is a whole lot of confusion. The confusion occurs with your immune system, and the reason it occurs is that the proteins found in some types of fresh produce closely resemble the chemical makeup of certain pollens. For example, people who are allergic to birch trees often experience oral allergy syndrome symptoms when they eat an apple.
Note that the body reacts in different ways to these varying allergy triggers. Pollens are likely to cause symptoms such as hay fever. Fruit and vegetable proteins, on the other hand, cause uncomfortable scratching and tingling sensations in the mouth.
Common fruit and vegetable cross-reactions include:
- Birch and alder trees: Apple, celery, cherry, peach, and pear
- Grass: Celery, cereal grains, potatoes
- Ragweed pollen: Banana and melon
Though you may experience oral allergy syndrome symptoms year-round, they are likely to flare when the associated pollen is in season. That means that when you eat an apple when birch trees are pollinating, you’re likely to experience an especially strong sensation of itching in the mouth and throat.
The good news is that if you treat the pollen allergy, the fruit or vegetable sensitivity will likely subside, too. Allergy immunotherapy is the only treatment that has been shown to actually change the underlying allergy instead of just its symptoms. Allergy immunotherapy is available through allergy shots or through oral allergy drops that can be dosed under the tongue. The treatment contains allergen extracts that desensitize the body to the most common allergy triggers. That way, the body can learn to “make peace” with them instead of overreacting to them.
If you have additional food allergies, consider immunotherapy in the form of oral allergy drops for food allergy treatment.