It’s a familiar story. You have been able to eat apples or cucumbers or some other fruit or vegetable all your life. But recently, when you take a bite of these familiar fresh foods, you feel an itching or tingling sensation in your mouth and throat. Perhaps you have even felt your lips or throat swelling. Suddenly, you find that these foods that you once enjoyed (and that should be good for your body) are making you miserable.
Why the sudden onset of uncomfortable reactions to fresh produce? The condition is known as oral allergy syndrome, and its roots go deeper than fruit and vegetable allergies. The syndrome actually stems from pollen allergies. Let’s say, for example, that you are allergic to birch tree pollens. The chemical composition of these pollens is very similar to that of apple proteins—so similar, in fact, that your body can’t tell the difference. As a result, your body may react to these apple proteins with allergy symptoms in the mouth. These oral allergy symptoms are often exacerbated when you eat an apple in spring when birch trees are pollinating.
Of course, apples and birch trees aren’t the only food-to-pollen relations. Here are some common pollens and the fruits and vegetables that they cross-react with:
- Tree pollens (usually birch and alder) – apple, apricot, nectarine, pear, plum, carrot, green pepper, tomato, peas, beans
- Grass – Dates, kiwi, melon, orange, tomato, watermelon, peas, potato
- Ragweed – Banana, melon (including watermelon), cucumber, zucchini
Cross-reactions can also extend to nuts and spices. For example, if you have tree allergies, you may react to almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts.
Why Does Oral Allergy Syndrome Develop Suddenly?
While some people experience oral allergy syndrome in youth, others may not develop it until they are adults. Allergies can blossom at any time, from infancy through old age. As your body becomes vulnerable to different pollen allergies, you may notice corresponding oral allergies.
Is There Treatment for Oral Allergy Syndrome?
If you address the underlying allergy, you can reduce the symptoms of oral allergy syndrome. This can be accomplished through sublingual immunotherapy drops, which work like allergy shots except that they are taken orally. The liquid droplets are dispensed under the tongue where they absorb into the body systems through specialized oral cells. The drops work for both pollen and food allergy treatment (including milk, egg, and nut allergy treatment). As your body becomes desensitized to the pollens that once made you miserable, you can regain your quality of life during allergy season and return to eating fresh produce without experiencing discomfort in your mouth and throat.