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Itchy Mouth from Fresh Fruits and Vegetables? You May Have Oral Allergy Syndrome

Updated on October 30, 2016
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Valerie is pursuing a degree in Creative Writing and enjoys cooking, medical topics, flash fiction, fashion, culture and politics.

Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and Vegetables | Source

An Apple a Day May Send You to the Doctor

If you're like me and have experienced itching and swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue or throat after eating a fresh piece of fruit - or even a salad - you may be suffering from Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). Sometimes, also referred to as Pollen Allergy Syndrome.

All my childhood and teenage years were filled with days of enjoying fruit and vegetables. I loved them all! Cherries, apples, pears, peaches, fresh pineapple and, oh my...watermelon. I would add apples to salads, eat cucumbers soaked in vinegar and adored fresh broccoli and cauliflower dipped in ranch dressing. Those days are long behind me, however, and it's all due to a sensitivity I have to certain pollens.


Symptoms of Oral Allergy Syndrome

Anytime something is introduced to the body that you are allergic or sensitive to, there is usually a general feeling of malaise until it has gone through your body. Symptoms of Oral Allergy Syndrome can vary from person to person, but the most common are itching, burning or swelling of the lips, tongue, mouth or throat. Other symptoms that are not as common include:

  • nausea
  • stomach cramps
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • worsening eczema or dermatitis
  • asthmatic flare-up/exacerbation
  • anaphylaxis

People Who Are Most at Risk

Food allergies are very common in young children, but oral allergy syndrome usually develops over time and most often rears its ugly head in the 20s or 30s. Some individuals, such as myself, can experience this allergy while still in their teenage years. There are people who are most at risk for developing oral allergy syndrome.

  • People who suffer from seasonal allergies (hay fever), sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes
  • People with known allergies to air pollens such as Ragweed, Mugwort, Birch trees and certain grasses.
  • People with a Latex allergy

Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal Allergies | Source

Interesting Facts about OAS

  • A third of hay fever sufferers have OAS
  • About 2% of OAS sufferers may experience anaphylaxis
  • Most people with OAS also suffer from asthma, other food allergies and eczema
  • "Organic" fruit STILL has the same proteins in it. Don't waste your money if you have OAS.

What Happens in OAS: Cross-Reaction

The easiest way to explain cross-reaction is to imagine that there are lots and lots of pollen allergens flying through the air. Some people are allergic to these pollens. Those very same people who are allergic to these pollens have their immune systems working overtime and develop sensitivities to the proteins found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Basically, your body is already fighting the allergic reaction to whatever pollen you're allergic to by making your nose runny, making your eyes water and itch and making you sneeze. When these pollen irritants are crossed with the proteins in fruits and vegetables... you have OAS.

Handy Cross-Reaction Chart - Print & Keep With You

Pollen Allergens
Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Allergies
Birch Trees
Apples, Apricots, Peaches, Plums, Cherries
Kiwi, Carrots, Celery, Peas, Potatoes
Almonds, Coriander,Fennel, Hazelnuts
Parsley and Carrots
Bananas, Canteloupe, Honeydew
Watermelon, Cucumbers, Zucchini
Echinacea,Chamomile tea
Tomatoes and Sunflower Seeds
Celery and Carrots
Melons, Peaches, Tomatoes, Oranges
Latex Allergy
Bananas, Kiwi, Avocado,Chestnuts
These are some of the cross-reactions that should be avoided if you have OAS or a known allergy to one of these allergens. This list is not all-inclusive.
Yummy Banana Pudding
Yummy Banana Pudding | Source

Other "Tricky" Foods to Avoid if You have OAS

  • Fruit Salads

  • Banana Pudding, Banana Splits

  • Fruit Smoothies

  • Fruit Parfait - unless used with "processed fruit"

  • "Fresh" fruit juices - fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh lemonade

  • Cereal, Yogurt or Pancakes with fresh fruit

What You Can Do To Avoid OAS Reactions

To avoid having a reaction from OAS, you can boil, sauté, bake or stir-fry the fruit or vegetable. This is because the proteins that actually cause the allergic reaction and broken down through the process of cooking. People with OAS may not be able to eat fresh cherries, but they can eat cherry pie filling. Likewise, processed foods, such as applesauce is easily tolerated by people with OAS unless you have an allergy to apples. Here are some alternatives for people living with Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS):

  1. Avoid fresh fruit and vegetables altogether. Believe me, it's not worth the risk and it's no fun experiencing the itching and swelling. Play it safe.
  2. Fresh green salads may very well be off-limits. Find other ways to supplement your daily vegetables with canned or frozen green beans, spinach, corn, etc.
  3. Replace fresh fruits with canned fruits in light syrup, baked fruit pies or blended fruit yogurts.
  4. Don't be fooled by tough skin! Even watermelon, canteloupes and honeydew can still bother you. Peeling the skin off apples, peaches, etc. will not help because the proteins are IN the fruit as a whole.
  5. See an allergist/dermatologist. They can do a skin-prick test to determine which pollens and fruits and vegetables cause you to have a cross-reaction. You may be able to eat one type of fresh fruit, but not another.
  6. Check into getting allergy shots. This has been helpful for some OAS sufferers. Also, discuss with your doctor whether or not you should carry an Epi-pen if you have severe allergic reactions.

Allergy Free Cooking - Recipes!!!!

Comments - Your comments/suggestions are appreciated!

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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A well written and explained hub not many people know what causes their allergies you have mentioned it directly

    • stayingalivemoma profile image

      Valerie Washington 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona

      Hi 2uesday - for a long time, I thought it was the chemicals and pesticides applied to fruits and vegetables. In the beginning, I would rinse them off before eating. Eventually, however, after a while, this didn't help. Thanks for stopping by!

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 5 years ago

      Sometimes reactions to eating fruit might be caused by a salicylate sensitivity. The Feingold gold diet lists which fruit fall into this category.

      It could also be caused by some of the sprays and chemicals applied to fruit when it is growing or before it is dispatched to be sold.

    • stayingalivemoma profile image

      Valerie Washington 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona

      Thanks, vespawolf...I suffered from this for so many years without an explanation. There are probably millions of people out there in the world with these symptoms and have no idea what is going on or how to prevent it. Thanks so much for commenting and sharing!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      My mother suffers from ragweed allergies and she has reactions to certain fruits, as well. I have a friend who can't get near a mango for the same reason! This is a very well-written and interesting hub. I especially find the allergy chart helpful. The explanation as to why this happens was fascinating as well. Thanks so much! Voted up and shared.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this useful information.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

      Very interesting. We have a student experiencing this and we've been having to be very vigilant in the cafeteria with her. A friend of mine experienced this as well. All of a sudden, in her twenties, she became allergic to what seemed like everything. It took them a while to pinpoint the specific foods. I remember her being really frustrated. Thanks for the info.