Ever get a tingly, itchy sensation in your mouth when you eat certain fruits or vegetables? Chances are, you have oral allergy syndrome.
Oral allergy syndrome affects people who are allergic to pollens from trees, grass, and/or weeds. Many of those pollens bear a close chemical resemblance to the proteins found in certain fruits and vegetables. For example, if you are allergic to birch trees and take a bite of an apple, your immune system may notice the strong similarities between the two and kick into overdrive. Oral allergy syndrome is often worse when the associated pollens are in season.
The immune system reacts differently to allergy-causing pollens than to foods. Pollens may lead to symptoms like hay fever, but food cross-reactivity can result in:
- Itching or tingling in the mouth, throat, or lips
- Swollen lips or tongue
- Itchy ears
- Stomach upset (less common)
- Skin rash from touching trigger foods (less common)
- Anaphylactic reaction (rare)
The symptoms usually start a few minutes after eating the fruit and subside quickly once the fresh produce is swallowed, but the reaction can still be very irritating.
To know what pollens might underlie your food allergies, consider these common cross-reactions:
- Birch pollen: apple, almond, carrot, cherry, hazelnut, kiwi, peach, pear, plum
- Grass pollen: celery, melons, oranges, peaches, tomato
- Ragweed pollen: banana, cucumber, melons, sunflower seeds, zucchini
Peeling fruits and veggies can sometimes help mitigate symptoms. So, too, can cooking them. If problems persist and keep you from eating the fresh foods you love, consider oral allergy syndrome treatment.
Many people shy away from allergy treatment because they don’t want to bother with allergy shots, but there are now more options. AllergyEasy offers sublingual immunotherapy drops (under-the-tongue allergy drops) that work like allergy shots but can be administered at home. There are also new sublingual immunotherapy medication tablets that dissolve under the tongue, but they only work for a limited number of allergens (grass and ragweed). Talk to your allergy doctor about ways you can eat your fruits and veggies and feel good, too!