Trouble Eating Fruits and Veggies? You May Have Oral Allergy Syndrome

Ever get a tingly, itchy sensation in your mouth when you eat certain fruits or vegetables? Chances are, you have oral allergy syndrome.

fruit allergies

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!

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.