Itchy Mouth from Fresh Fruits and Vegetables? You May Have Oral Allergy Syndrome
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:
- stomach cramps
- worsening eczema or dermatitis
- asthmatic flare-up/exacerbation
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
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
Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Allergies
Apples, Apricots, Peaches, Plums, Cherries
Kiwi, Carrots, Celery, Peas, Potatoes
Almonds, Coriander,Fennel, Hazelnuts
Parsley and Carrots
Bananas, Canteloupe, Honeydew
Watermelon, Cucumbers, Zucchini
Tomatoes and Sunflower Seeds
Celery and Carrots
Melons, Peaches, Tomatoes, Oranges
Bananas, Kiwi, Avocado,Chestnuts
Further Reading about Food Allergies
Other "Tricky" Foods to Avoid if You have OAS
Banana Pudding, Banana Splits
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):
- 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.
- 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.
- Replace fresh fruits with canned fruits in light syrup, baked fruit pies or blended fruit yogurts.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.