Oral Allergy Syndrome: A Bad Mix
I was in my mid-thirties when I discovered, the hard way, that I was suffering from Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). I ate a banana, as I often did, in the late afternoon when my stomach is usually starting to get hungry after a light lunch. Two bites into the banana, I felt the inside of my mouth start to itch. A couple minutes later, my tongue started to swell up. Without knowing what was going on, I found a Benadryl and took it with plenty of water. The medication seemed to have no affect whatsoever. My body was soon covered with hives and started to swell.
I was suffering through an anaphylaxic shock without knowing it. The sudden drop in blood pressure was not good for me. Not knowing what to do, I went to lay down and tried to sleep it off. I was lucky my condition didn't worse because what I really needed to do was go to the hospital.
When I came to my senses again the next morning, I decided to do some research into my symptoms and figure out what happened. I knew it was some sort of allergic reaction because I tend to suffer from those. I was allergic to ragweed, pollen, almonds, and cats. I found out about ragweed and pollen when I was being treated by an allergist and I learned about my allergy to almonds and cats the hard way. No anaphylaxic shocks, but itchy hives were the clues.
What I found was interesting. I started to read quite a bit about Oral Allergy Syndrome and concluded that all the symptoms matched what I had gone through the day before. People who suffer from OAS have ragweed and pollen allergies. What makes the condition dangerous is the consumption of certain fruits, especially during ragweed and pollen season. The mix of allergens in the system can cause OAS and send a person into anaphylaxic shock. Apparently, the OAS can develop at any time during a lifetime as I grew up eating all the fruits I can now no longer eat without feeling the symptoms and putting myself in danger.
OAS happens because the immune system tries too hard to protect the body when allergens are introduced. In the case of hay fever sufferers, when a person inhales certain pollens, the immune system prompts sneezing, watery eyes, and runny noses to try to rid the body of the intruder.
The actual allergen for a person suffering from OAS is the plant-related substance such as ragweed and pollen. With OAS, the immune system reacts to proteins in both the plants and fruits the same way as if they were the same intruder. The body thinks the consumed fruit is the plant allergen and starts to over-react. This is a situation called cross reactivity.
The Dangerous Combinations
The proteins found in fruit cross-react with pollens and other plant allergens to cause OAS and dangerous situations for humans.
People who suffer from hay fever need to avoid cantaloupe.
People who are allergic to birch pollen need to avoid:
People who are allergic to ragweed need to avoid:
People with grass allergies need to avoid:
Some people don't suffer from plant-related allergies, but rather, a rubber latex allergy. In this case, people need to avoid:
A few interesting notes:
- When the fruits are cooked or heated up, their protein structures change and they are "denatured." As a result of the changed protein structures, OAS symptoms will not be apparent. People who suffer from OAS do not get allergic reactions to cooked fruits.
- The peel of the fruit carries the bulk of the allergens so peeled fruit can be safe to eat with any reactions. The meat of fruit can also be the culprit so take caution!
- Oral Allergy Syndrome is also known as Pollen Food Syndrome
- Allergic potential decreases as the fruit ages
If you think you might be suffering from OAS, visit an allergist to find out if you are allergic to pollen, ragweed, or grasses. Don't wait until you experience an anaphylaxic shock. You will be putting yourself in a very dangerous situation if you wait.