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Daily Wisdom: Why Some Fruits Make You Itchy

If your throat tingles after you bite into your farmer’s market finds, it might be due to seasonal allergies.

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TODAY'S TOPIC: ORAL ALLERGY SYNDROME CAUSES ADVERSE REACTIONS TO CERTAIN FOODS

THE SCIENCE

If you have a pollen allergy, you may find your mouth or throat getting tingly after eating certain produce. The effect could be attributed to oral allergy syndrome (OAS), according to a report by National Jewish Health. In fact, OAS affects one third of North Americans with pollen-related allergies (and 10 percent of the entire population), says the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

 
EXPERT INSIGHT

OAS actually has nothing to do with pollen directly, says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist in New York City with Allergy & Asthma Network. “Some people are allergic to a protein in the fruit that is similar to the protein that they are allergic to in the pollen," says Parikh. "The body gets confused and thinks you are eating a ball of pollen." You can have a reaction from something you've eaten a hundred times before without problems since you can develop allergies over time. People can also experience issues when eating out of season such as consuming an apple in the spring.

Certain types of pollen allergies correspond with certain types of food. “Commonly those allergic to tree or birch pollen, which is a big spring allergen, have problems with cherries, apples, peaches, apricots, hazelnut, and occasionally almonds or peanuts. Those allergic to ragweed could have problems with melons, avocados, cilantro, and some other fruits and vegetables,” Parikh says. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you bite into seasonal produce and get an itchy throat, tongue, and/or lips, you might have oral allergy syndrome. People who are highly allergic can have severe throat swelling, but for the most part OAS causes a pretty mild reaction and is more uncomfortable than it is dangerous, says the AAAAI. If you heat the fruit (think baked apples) it breaks down the protein and may nullify the reaction, Parikh adds. If you want to eat it raw, ask your doctor about allergy shots.