4 Things You Need To Know About Oral Allergy Syndrome

Posted on: 9 September 2015

Some people who are allergic to pollen also have reactions to fruits, vegetables, or nuts. This happens due to cross-reactivity: the proteins in pollens and the proteins in some foods are similar enough that your immune system reacts to both. Pollen-allergic people who have reactions to cross-reactive foods may have oral allergy syndrome. Here are four things you need to know about this type of allergic reaction.

What are the signs of this reaction?

If you have oral allergy syndrome, you'll feel symptoms in your mouth and throat after eating certain foods. These symptoms include an itchy throat, a swollen tongue, or swollen lips. In severe cases, the symptoms are more widespread and include swelling of the windpipe or hives. These symptoms tend to develop within a few minutes of eating the offending food and go away in 15 minutes or less.

What foods can cause it?

Fruits, vegetables, legumes, tree nuts, seeds, and even herbs and spices can lead to an allergic reaction in people with pollen allergies. The reaction is somewhat unpredictable, as not all pollen-allergic people will have a reaction to cross-reactive foods.

If you're allergic to mugwort pollen, you may react to melons, green peppers, carrots, celery, parsnip, sunflower seeds and a wide variety of herbs and spices. People who are allergic to grass pollen may react to melons, oranges, tomatoes, peas, and peanuts.

If you're allergic to birch, alder, elm, and hazel pollen, the list of possibly cross-reactive foods is long. You may react to apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, celery, peanuts, tree nuts like almonds, and many herbs and spices.

In rare cases, people with pollen allergies can also react to foods that contain pollen, like honey or chamomile tea.

How is it treated?

The main treatment for oral allergy syndrome is completely avoiding any foods that cause a reaction. If your reactions are mild, you may be able to eat the cross-reactive foods in cooked form, as most people react to the raw versions of the foods. If you have severe reactions, you will need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you.

How common is it?

Oral allergy syndrome is very common, which is no surprise, because pollen allergies are very common. About one-third of people suffer from hay fever, a reaction to pollen, and as much as 10% of the population suffers from oral allergy syndrome.

If you think you have oral allergy syndrome, see your allergist right away.


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Hi there! My name is Sara Jerba. I'm no doctor, but I'm very familiar with them due to experience. You could say I was a sickly child. Between various allergies and a few other conditions, I got to be very good friends with my doctors and nurses. Although I hate staying overnight in the hospital, I do feel quite at home there. Now, don't feel sorry for me. Most of my conditions have eased or even abated entirely as I've grown up. And none of them were ever life-threatening--just inconvenient. It's actually been very positive in the long run; it's brought a lot of wonderful people and important knowledge into my life that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

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