Food allergy is a common condition that many people suffer from. There are certain foods that widely cause allergic reaction in many. However, some people are allergic to certain specific foods that are usually not considered to be allergic to many. What is atypical to the usual allergies is that some allergies are specific to certain diseases such as Hay Fever. Those, who suffer from Hay Fever, often develop a certain oral allergy, commonly known as fruit allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS).

Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome

Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome: An Overview

Also known as pollen-food allergy syndrome, oral allergy syndrome is an allergic reaction to some raw fruits, nuts and vegetables as well as pollens. Pollens from certain trees, grasses or weeds, can cause allergic reaction to some people. Even many fruits and vegetables are found that cause oral allergies to Hay Fever sufferers.

Common Triggers or Foods Associated with Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome

There are certain foods that largely and commonly create allergic reactions to fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome sufferers or Hay Fever sufferers. However, it is not a must that everyone with fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome will be allergic to all or any of these. The common allergens include –

  • Fruits: Apple, cherry, apricot, melon, peach, kiwi, plum, banana, oranges, strawberry, cucumber, pear and nectarine
  • Vegetables: Carrot, tomato, celery, potatoes, zucchini and even soy milk
  • Nuts: Hazelnut, peanut, almond, Brazil nut and walnut.

Apart from these common triggers, there are some other fruits, nuts and vegetables as well that occasionally cause allergic reaction to fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome sufferers. These include mango, pineapple, parsley, peppers, fennel and even spices like cumin, coriander, mustard, aniseed, sunflower seeds, caraway and even honey.

Symptoms of Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome

The very basic sign of fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome is that the allergic reaction and symptoms are confined only to the mouth and throat and do not proceed further. Occasionally the symptoms of fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome are also found in the ears, with itchy ears. The common symptoms are –

  • Itchy mouth
  • Swelled lips
  • Scratchy throat
  • Swelled throat
  • Swelled tongue and mouth.

Sometimes, the sufferers of fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome may even find symptoms such as runny nose, itchy and watery eyes as well as frequent sneezing. In rare occasions, fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome may be serious enough to have severe reactions and symptoms such as –

In most cases, the reaction occurs within minutes of coming in contact with the allergen. It can be eating, touching or even simply peeling the allergen. However, the reaction might also occur after hours of consumption. Usually, the reaction subsides as soon as the allergen is removed from mouth either by swallowing or by taking it out of the mouth.

Causes of Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome

The cause of fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome is the presence of certain proteins in some pollens as well as fruits, nuts and vegetables, and sometimes even in few spices. These proteins are very much essential for the growth of these plants, as well as in defending the plants from acquiring various diseases. However, though essential to the plants, these proteins are allergic to Hay Fever sufferers. Their immune system identifies these proteins and causes the oral allergic reaction.

This is the reason, why oral allergy syndrome is commonly seen during summer and spring, when Hay Fever breaks out in a large scale. However, it is associated only with the consumption of these fruits, nuts and vegetables in the raw condition. If they are cooked, there is no allergic reaction to them. This is because, these specific proteins that the immune system identifies as allergic, break down and are distorted upon cooking. Hence, the immune system or the body fails to recognize them after cooking and the allergy does not happen.

Prevalence of Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome

Oral Allergy Syndrome almost always follows Hay Fever. Though it is more common in adults and older children, younger children also get this allergic syndrome. In most cases, this allergy syndrome is associated with birch tree pollen. However, many also get allergic to grass pollens.

People living in North America are more vulnerable and allergic to pollens of grass and ragweed; whereas, people in Europe are more allergic to mugwort. Usually, the allergy is most prevalent during the pollen season in spring or summer when Hay Fever breaks out. However, it can react throughout the year.

Complications Associated with Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome

In some cases, the allergic reaction to fruits proceeds beyond the mouth and throat. This could be an indication to anaphylaxis, which is a serious condition that may lead even to death. Research studies have shown that about 1.7% of all patients with oral allergy syndrome might encounter serious anaphylaxis. In about 9% of patients with fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome, the condition progresses to systemic symptoms. In these cases, an epinephrine auto-injection must be carried, so that the severity of the condition can be managed.

Diagnosis of Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome

Many people do not realize that they have fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome. However, if swelling or a tingling sensation is experienced after eating certain raw fruits, vegetables or nuts, it is a must to see an allergy specialist. He will ask some questions regarding the foods that you have consumed and the type of allergic reactions that you are encountering.

A food challenge test might also be conducted by the doctor to check the fruits or nuts or vegetables that cause the allergy. Yet another test called the skin prick test is also conducted by the doctor in which the fruit or vegetable is pricked by an instrument and the skin of the patient is also pricked by the same instrument to check for any reaction. Any reaction would indicate fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome.

Treatment and Prevention of Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome

Avoidance of the fruits and vegetables as well as nuts causing the allergy is the best way to treat or prevent oral allergy syndrome.

The fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome sufferers must also, almost always, cook the food before eating them. This is because the allergic reactions take place only when the food is consumed in the raw state. Heat breaks down the allergens. Hence, in most cases, cooked foods would not cause the allergic reaction.

Many people prefer eating canned foods or processed foods as these do not cause the allergic reaction. Sometimes, immunotherapy to pollens has significantly decreased the occurrence of these allergic symptoms. However, nothing as such can permanently treat fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome. Hence, avoiding the food is the only way to manage it.

Conclusion

Fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome is often not a serious condition. It causes itchy mouth, throat and sometimes eyes and ears. Once swallowed, the reaction subsides. However, if the symptoms of fruit allergy or oral allergy syndrome persists or increases, one must seek immediate medical help as this can lead to anaphylaxis which is a serious life-threatening condition.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: April 25, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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