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Foods That Cause Oral Allergy Syndrome

Seasonal Allergies, Foods, and Itchy Mouths

As if the itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and sinus congestion from pollen allergies weren't enough, if you're one of the lucky 33 percent who also suffers from oral allergy syndrome (OAS), you may also have to deal with uncomfortable itchiness, tingling, or swelling in the mouth, lips, or throat when eating certain fresh fruits, vegetables, or nuts.

Because proteins in allergy-inducing pollens are so similar to the proteins in certain types of foods, it confuses the body into thinking those food proteins are an allergen. As soon as the person eats the offending food, it triggers their sensitive immune system to release chemicals that cause cells in the mouth and throat to swell. These reactions, called cross reactions, are usually mild and last for 10 to 30 minutes, but in rare cases people can experience anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that causes blocked airways, low blood pressure, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Only fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts can cause OAS reactions. Eating canned, cooked, dried, or frozen versions of those same foods usually cause no reaction since the proteins change during those processes. Also, just so you know, OAS is different than a nut allergy. In order for a person to have OAS, they must have an allergy to pollen. Check out the chart below to see which foods may be associated with certain seasonal allergies.

Note: Cross reactions may occur with some or all of the foods listed in the right-hand column.

Type of Allergy Foods That May Cause Cross Reactions
Birch Tree pollen Almonds, apples, apricots, carrots, celery, cherries, coriander, fennel, hazelnuts, kiwi, lychee fruit, nectarines, parsley, parsnips, peaches, pears, peppers, persimmon, plums, potatoes, prunes, soy, wheat, zucchini, walnuts
Grass pollen Celery, watermelon, oranges, peaches, tomatoes
Ragweed pollen Bananas, melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew), gourd family (cucumber, zucchini and squash), chamomile, echinacea, sunflower seeds, zucchini
Alder pollen Celery, pears, apples, almonds, cherries, hazelnuts, peaches, parsley
Mugwort pollen Celery, fennel, carrots, parsley, coriander, sunflower, peppers

Just because you have an allergy to one of the pollens listed above, does not mean you'll automatically have a reaction to the foods listed to the right. If you've been noticing swelling, itching, or tingling in your mouth or throat, it's best to get tested by an allergist.

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
jabberyjess jabberyjess 8 years
I have had tree allergies all my life...never once has a doctor mentioned this to me. I was so happy to find this article. Often I will have OAS but have never been able to pinpoint it back to any food in particular. I love all the foods listed and don't have major reacitons or anything... but I am looking forward to being able to identify now why I may feel that itching in my throat after I eat certain foods! Thanks!
sheena sheena 8 years
If you eat local honey, it helps to decrease your allergic reaction by gradually vaccinating your body (immunotherapy) against the cross pollination. This has been scientifically studied and peer reviewed. It has to be local honey though and helps with the seasonal allergies and pollen reactions. see this link for more information :)
EatYourVeggies EatYourVeggies 8 years
Woah! Finally there's a name for it. I always have this, but my parents think that it's just psychological. Thanks for posting, Fit.
nikolem2 nikolem2 8 years
I have this! I've had it since I was a kid. I don't take medication or avoid allergy triggers. Most of the time I don't ever notice my symptoms (itchy mouth/tongue) unless I'm THINKING about it like right now.
Kelliegrl Kelliegrl 8 years
I can't eat fresh apples, pears, plums or peaches, otherwise my throat, gums and tongue, will itch and swell. Apples and pears are the worst offenders for me. Very uncomfortable.As the article states, I can eat them if they are cooked.
wmoonw wmoonw 8 years
OH! Is that why that happens to me? Thanks, Fit, I never knew! I will pay more attention next time :)
Smacks83 Smacks83 8 years
I have no allergies, but get major tingly/itchy mouth and lips when eating a kiwi. I don't get that feeling in my throat, just mouth and lips. Weird.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 8 years
this is too weird!!! i have had major pollen allergies all of my life, and then last spring actually I was eating a peach and my throat felt very strange and prickly. I drank lots of water and it eventually subsided. a few weeks later I was eating some Bing cherries and I had the exact same sensation, though it came on much faster and was a lot more intense. luckily I had some Benadryl at my desk and took it right away, but I have not eaten "pit fruits" since. I didn't realize it had a direct correlation with my pollen allergies!!
gothamgal gothamgal 8 years
Wow, I hadn't heard of this before. Good to know, as I am allergic to some foods already.
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