Cross-Reaction Allergies (Oral Allergy Syndrome)

For a large portion of seasonal allergy sufferers, environmental allergens may only be the beginning of their problems. Up to 10% of these people will also suffer from what is known as oral allergy syndrome, a less-severe type of food allergy.

Oral allergy syndrome is directly related to pollen reactions and is known to set off tingling in the tongue, roof of the mouth, lips, and throat. A variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and spices are known to share allergic proteins with hay fever-causing environmental allergens. The protein structures are so similar that the immune system cannot tell the difference between them, causing reactions to both. While these allergies are not considered life-threatening, they tend to be more common than peanut, egg, milk, or fish allergies.

One of the more recognizable allergens is the weed, Ragweed. Unfortunately, this culprit is known to be cross-reactive with bananas, melons, zucchini, and cucumber—all of which can cause an itchy mouth in the patient.

Fortunately, it doesn’t mean that these foods need to be entirely avoided. Believe it or not, cooking them will break up some of the protein bonds, preventing any type of reaction from happening. Boiling, steaming, baking or microwaving are all acceptable ways of doing this. Because of this, it is very possible that a raw apple cause a reaction in someone whereas applesauce and apple juice do not. Unfortunately, this does not work for celery or tree nuts.

It is also important to note that just because cross-reactions exist, it does not mean that all patients will react the same way to every food on the list. It is completely dependent on the individual immune system and what may cause a reaction in one may be completely fine for another. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms with foods and also have seasonal allergies, consider making an appointment to have an allergy skin test done, helping you better understand what you should and shouldn’t avoid.

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