If Apples Make You Sneeze, Try Apple Pie

Spring Can Trigger Oral Allergy Syndrome

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, of Family Allergy & Asthma Care in Gaithersburg, Md., on allergic reactions caused by certain foods that are not food allergies. (Published Monday, Mar 7, 2011)

    Sneezing and itching season is almost here, but it may not just be pollen that bothers you in spring.

    Oral allergy syndrome causes people to react to certain foods that are linked to the pollens that set off their allergies.

    “It’s a cross-reactivity where you react to the part of the fruit (usually the skin) that is like the part of the tree or plant that you’re allergic too,” said Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, of Family Allergy & Asthma Care in Gaithersburg, Md.

    Think of it this way: “The pollen actually goes into the flower and makes the fruit. The skin of the fruit itself is really like the flower turned inside out. So eating that particular fruit is sort of like munching on the pollen,” according to Dr. Jackie..

    Statistics show one in five people suffers from seasonal allergies. About one third of those people have oral allergy syndrome. The symptoms usually are a sudden tingling or swelling of the lips, mouth or throat. There may also be gum, eye or nose irritation and itching. Shock is a very rare reaction. While this can happen year-round, it tends to be worse when you eat the food during pollen season.

    “This is not the same as food allergy,” said Dr. Jackie. “That can be life-threatening with vomiting, hives and you can stop breathing. That's a very dangerous and different condition.”

    The key to knowing the difference is to go to an allergist and get a brand new test, called a “component test.” It differentiates between the allergens to which you are sensitive.

    If you believe you do suffer from oral allergy syndrome, don’t be too dismayed. If you cook the fruits and veggies, they won’t bother you. So if an apple a day makes your mouth tingle, have a slice of apple pie instead!

    Here’s a list of the pollens and the associated foods that could cause you to react:

    • Ragweed: Canteloupe, bananas, sunflower seeds, zucchini , cucumber
    • Grass Pollen: Peaches, celery, melons, tomatoes, oranges
    • Tree Pollen: Potatoes, celery, tree nuts, peanuts, tree fruits (apples, pears, cherries)