Citrus Allergy: Goodbye Lemons, Oranges…

By staff

Just by eating citrus fruit, have you ever experienced allergy-like symptoms? These symptoms include watery eyes, a runny nose, and rashes on the skin. Along with the appearance of hives, you could feel some tingling in your lips and tongue. As the allergy grows more severe, your voice could become hoarse and your throat would tighten. In some cases, these would also be accompanied by symptoms of nausea, vomiting diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

What we’ve just described are some of the common symptoms exhibited by a case of true citrus allergy. At present, there’s no known cure for this particular type of allergy, other than avoiding those foods which trigger its symptoms.

Still on symptoms, the onset of a true allergy would most likely occur within a few seconds or minutes of exposure to the allergen. It might even take a few hours, depending on how much you were exposed to and how fast your immune system reacts.

The real allergen is the fruit itself. To name a few, some of these fruits include lemons, limes, oranges, mandarins, clementines, grapefruit, and pomelo.

Citric acid allergy

Because fruits are basically acidic in property, they may also cause citric acid allergy in some people. If you happen to be one of them, you’ve been observed to be particularly sensitive to the presence of citric acid.

Citric acid is a substance present in so many foods, drugs, and beverages. It’s also part of so many cosmetics and skin care products. Usually, they would be labeled as citrus extracts or citric acid preservatives like sodium citrate and potassium citrate.

Citric acid intolerance

On the other hand, there’s citric acid intolerance. This condition occurs and recurs when your body’s unable to digest and metabolize the citric acid found in food.

Comparing citric acid intolerance with citrus allergy, the symptoms of the former appear and develop only after some time. The former also depends on the quantity of food eaten. Whereas only a small amount of fruit is enough to trigger allergy, it could be high citric acid content which you’re specifically intolerant to. Clearly, these spell a difference in diagnosing whether it’s a true allergy or a case of intolerance.

Substances added to food

So far, we’ve seen that you can be allergic to citrus fruit, sensitive to citric acid, and intolerant of high levels of acidity. These present a whole new range of problems which challenge you to get to the very root of your problem.

There’s a fourth condition, though. The irritation could also arise, not from substances which are naturally occurring in citrus fruits, but from other ingredients which get to be added to food. Some of these foods include sourdough bread, soda, vinegar, wine, and cheese. Also in this list are jams, fruits preserves, and canned goods like tomatoes or fruit cocktail. Unless otherwise diagnosed, these can be interpreted as less of allergy and more of food sensitivity.

Aside from food sensitivity, it may also be a side effect which triggers an allergy-like reaction. Take too much vitamin C supplements, for instance. Synthetic and commercially-manufactured, these supplements may contain inactive ingredients which trigger an allergic reaction in you. In response, your body overreacts by producing Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to combat what’s perceived to be an attack.

Thus, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) recommends taking in no more than 2,000 mg of vitamin C a day. Actually, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for the average adult would be at 75-90 mg only. Overdo the dosage especially on an empty stomach and you just might feel the symptoms of something similar to a citrus allergy. But now, you know better!

A matter of prevention

Before you even buy food products, read their labels and examine their contents. Their ingredients and nutritional facts should tell you what citrus fruits they’re made of and how much citric acid they contain.

And unless you need to be completely citrus-free, eat these fruits peeled and sliced. This allows you to regulate your intake by eating only in small portions. If still you exhibit the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, then have yourself evaluated and tested for a true citrus allergy.

26 Comments »

It took many years for me to figure out that the painful frequent canker soars in my mouth were caused by citric acid. If I read all labels and avoid all citric acid, I do not get them. If I ingest any citric acid I get canker soars very rapidly. Has anyone else reported this symptom and/or any cure besides just avoiding citric acid?

November 25th, 2014 | 6:35 am
Jayne:

Living with this makes it very difficult to go anywhere! Can’t go to grocery because of all the orange cleaners and citrus products. You can’t go out to eat because you don’t know what it was cleaned with or there are citrus products that someone may be ordering… My face goes numb immediately, and then comes a migraine with vomiting…

April 30th, 2015 | 5:32 pm
Scott:

Nothing funny about this…

Should I have the misfortune of ingesting anything with Citrus & my throat doesn’t completely swell shut, I end up defecating blood for the next 3 days.

July 20th, 2015 | 11:33 am
dawn wade:

I am allergic to citric acid. Diagnosed at birth to only be allergic to oranges. At 13 i could no longer eat or even touch any item containing citric acid, or any citrate. I only use john freida shampoo and conditioner for the last 20 years. I have to read every label of everything that comes in my house. I even passed the allergy to both my children. It really sucks

August 26th, 2015 | 9:36 pm
cris:

Hi, I kept getting sore cankers for a long time. And someone mentioned could be tomato. so I eliminated and did not get any more. I found that if I take Lysine capsules before I eat or even when I feel the cankers coming , I do not get them. I tried to avoid overall acid foods fruits like, lemons , pineaple, cranberries.

January 20th, 2016 | 7:52 am
Shalini:

I have allegry to lemons for almost 25 years now and end up coughing endlessly for days before anti allergy medicine starts to work.Recently I started noticing that I get the cough whenever I take any packaged food containing citric acid.It’s a terrible situation and feel sorry for all those who suffer because of allergy that too lemon,a fruit that supposedly helps in building immunity.

March 7th, 2016 | 7:42 pm
Jackie:

Wow this is great finding others “out there” sharing. Up until now I felt like Tom Hanks in Cast Away talking to Wilson. I suffered for 15 years with gigantic mouth sores. I had been to the doctor and then was allergy tested, but no connection was made to alcohol, oranges, tomatoes, lemons, pineapples, vinegar, and caffiene (which includes chocolate but not white). Once discovered by myself I was released from the nightmare of canker sores. The downside is I would most likely starve if I traveled to Italy. The upside is a compassion for myself and others who come to terms with being food challenged.

June 3rd, 2016 | 4:14 am
Juri:

Some of the symptoms I read above is due to digestive system leaking and not an allergy

July 25th, 2016 | 8:59 am
Kris:

I found out a couple years ago that I was allergic, first to orange juice. And it wasn’t an immediate effect, but my lips became like hamburger. Since then, if I try to use lemon juice (like on fish) or have a bite of orange, I will break out on my lips (like a bad case of chapped lips). 🙁 I wish there were some way to get over this, other than avoiding citrus fruit altogether. But, like Jackie… finding out the cause of my lips breaking out was a Godsend… I have to talk with people all day as a part of my job and having messed up lips doesn’t help that (and it hurt like heck!).

September 3rd, 2016 | 5:02 pm
Rozalin:

I have had this for a couple of years now but i seem to have different symptoms than most. I don’t get sore inside my mouth but large lumps appear on my face and started now around my eyes. I thought it was just orange juice at first but then switched to lemon and still the same. its not nice other people having this but it is nice knowing you aren’t suffering alone and going mad. The doctors just dismiss me when I face them on the matter so after doing research myself i found out what it is. My mother suffers more than me as hers blisters and severely breaks out in rashes and bleeds on her face.

September 16th, 2016 | 3:32 am
Marina:

Hi, I am 46 now but when I was in my teens I suffered from swellings in my joints, on my face and on the soles of my feet( it felt like I was walking on marbles and my face would swell as if I had been in a fight but without the bruising). I would go to the doctors but by the time I got to see him the symptoms had disappeared and I am sure they thought I was mad. It did not happen daily but just occasionally at that time. I tried the food diary but nothing stood out. Then when I was 20 I took pictures of myself when I had an episode and took them to a specialist who quite frankly sniggered at the photos and then told me to do a food diary again. All this time looking back I would get stomache cramps and diahorrea but not necessarily at the same time. Finally my now husband sent me to see a kineseologist who diagnosed me as being Intollerant to Citrus, tomatoes and pollen. Since that day I have been able to manage my condition very well With only a few setbacks.

September 26th, 2016 | 3:04 pm
Dee:

I’m running out of things to eat, no citrus/tomatoes(blisters on face/neck),strawberries(fine rash), bananas(inside of my mouth completely peels), no mangoes, papaya (silicone & latex allegy). It sucks!

November 26th, 2016 | 10:31 pm
Mugwump:

Rozalin, you are not alone. When I hit puberty, my face started breaking out in hard lumps, many of which opened and bled. I also got sores in my mouth. Luckily, my dermatologist immediately diagnosed an allergy to citrus fruits. No extra tests needed; my face was the proof.
There is hope. Now, forty-five years later, I can finally eat citrus again. My dermatologist attributes it to “maturing.” Unfortunately, I passed it on to my daughter.
(As an aside, I strongly recommend homeopathic borax for mouth sores. It was a Godsend.)

December 11th, 2016 | 9:20 am
Jamie:

I’m on an elimination diet – no grains or milk. About a week into it, I discovered that oranges were a part of the problem. Then, I figured out that it’s all citrus fruits. I just read on another site that citric acid is often derived from corn, which corn gives me horrendous problems. My symptoms are all digestive. I feel like I have a terrible flu when I eat the wrong thing. Citrus in particular gives me rotten egg burps, diarrhea, and vomiting. It’s awful. But, it’s easier than in the past where I live to find health food that has limited ingredients. Gotta read all the labels.

January 10th, 2017 | 9:59 pm
Sharon:

I have get the mouth sores often but i also get “pimples” that are very red and painful then it goes into full body joint pain and hypersensitivity thought out the entire body as well. I have not thankfully had to endure the diarrhea or cramping as some people have. just thought I would add the symptoms that I have had to this site so other people could be on the look out for them as well

January 11th, 2017 | 1:46 pm
Janet:

I am a 55 yr old female. I have always gotten canker sores sinc childhood. At about 20 I realized it was due to citrus specifically tomato, pineapple and orange. Eating tthem would also me to break out on face and back. It was always 1-2 days later

In the last yr I have developed granuloma annulara (ring shaped rash) on both elbows. I think it also is related to citrus and the flares ups are 1-2 days delayed. I’m using a food diary to verify.

Canker sores: I prevent them from occurring by using listerine type mouthwash both morn and eve after brushing teeth. Really prevents 99%

Best wishes

February 1st, 2017 | 3:05 pm
Rachel Miskimmin:

I have been allergic to oranges for most of my life (im 26) but its got so bad now that i cant even smell orange scented things never mind consume anything!I don’t think i am allergic to any other citrus’s but i have noticed that pineapple is starting to cause mild reaction.
My symptoms normally occur less than 5 mins after being exposed to something orange related and manifest in the form of
> stomach cramps
> sneezing
> extremely runny nose and eyes
>coughing
>wheezing and struggling to talk
>extremely itchy throat
> tight chest and difficulty breathing
> rapid heart rate increase

I used to vomit as well but now i feel like im going to and take antihistamines and the symptoms start to go.
i feel awful for the next day or so, feeling nauseous, head aches and very fatigued as if i have the flu.
My question is, does anyone else get these symptoms? and do you have to avoid any other foods/ingredients.?
Im worried that there are other things that cause a reaction (a few times we couldn’t work out why i had taken a reaction)

February 2nd, 2017 | 6:19 am
Diana:

I used to enjoy foods with a lot of lemons, limes, oranges, until 6 years ago, I got my lips swollen, a severe rash in my hands and arms, and it was because of the skin contact with the citrus, I can eat it but not touching. Why did I develop this allergy? I am 51 y/o female.

February 13th, 2017 | 10:00 am
Tamara:

I developed the citrus sensitivity at 16. But in the past two years it got worse. Now my mouth get swollen even after using regular toothpaste. Does anyone know an acid free toothpaste?

February 27th, 2017 | 2:24 pm
Harley:

I have been getting majorly massive headaches and nausea and stomach cramps whenever I eat oranges, lemons, or limes or something containing themail juice of those fruits. So far grapefruit doesn’t have that effect but I rarely eat or drink them even though they are one of my favorite foods. I am trying to figure out if maybe I have an intolerance or allergy to citrus fruits. This is a recent (1 year ago it started) reaction so not sure.

March 1st, 2017 | 12:49 pm
EL Ritter:

I love lemons, limes, and lemon flavored citrus type foods. As a child citrus food would cause blisters when the touched my skin my face or hands. At first I just learned to not touch the food with anything but the inside of my mouth.

I never thought about the affects inside my body. I space out when I eat them now, take benedryl and motrin beforehand and keep inhaler handy. My symptoms are itchy sore inner ears, itchy eyes swollen, congestion, headache, itchy chest and skin and sore joints.

This is not as bad as some of my other food allergies like chamomile, milk,or almonds, or some the reactions some of you have. Maybe someone will see this and it helps.

April 8th, 2017 | 10:32 pm
John:

I am allergic to citric fruits. Any suggestions about products (cleaning, hygiene-related) I should buy or should avoid buying?

June 21st, 2017 | 9:12 pm
Jill:

Re toothpastes: my husband (who is seriously allergic to lemons) uses Arm & Hammer “Complete Care” or Tom’s (Anti-Plaque and Whitening.” Re cleaning products: definitely avoid anything picturing lemons, or mentioning lemon or citrus scent! There are always alternatives (for counter sprays, detergents, dishwasher detergents, dishwasher liquids, soaps, shampoos), but you have to look carefully.

July 18th, 2017 | 5:29 pm
Joel S.:

Iam allergic to citric acid or citrus fruit. Not sure. Started when I was 16yrs old. My body covers in hives some itchy some not. Then start getting on elbows both if I had 3 hives on one I’ll get same on other. hives wer always round but not perfect circles. After a while into this may by months later. Start to get Swollen Lips they were numb. Lips well last hrs or even up 2 days.Then I started to get to my eyes swollen too. If it was not the lips or hands or feet it was eye top lid. Now iam 34yrs now I get them inside my body. I feel the hives but inside like under my skin. In my head,hands,legs,bottom foot butt cheeks, not all at once. 1 or 2 of them but now it’s different sometimes feel like passing out or feel heart beating fast or a real ugly rush. Especially when they’re inside my head between skin and skull. sometimes well only happen like 2 Times or 3 Get real big ones in my lower back or side it hurts like somthing pushing my ribs.almost forgot couple times inside of my ear swells up so my hearing sounds like,kind when your press ur ear bottom to and talk you hear deep in your head well like that but for hrs it goes alway. I don’t eat citrus fruit, or Citrus candy or ice tea green or black tea. because before they make the iced tea where they make it they put the leaves in Citrus to cure it.and when you buy the box of bags and put in water to make ice tea well that triggers allergic reaction. The mosquito spray Deet also stay away. Some shampoos and colognes and deodorant. What helps me and only helps is liquid Benadryl capsules the real brand not the imitation. How I know when I going to get a allergic reaction? My hairs in back head stand up just a little or nose get sweat kind of when you eat like a real hot sauce or numbness any part of my body. Just be careful when you start getting them inside your body. Well cause panic attacks you may feel like fainting
Racing heartbeat. And that can trigger something else worse. Aftermath when the hives start going down they get itching outside body and inside sometimes. So that’s my fuck up citric acid allergie.. only and only time I eat an juicy orange is when iam real sick. Like the flu or bad cold more and i don’t get any reaction i don’t understand and when I eat it.it’s a good and wonderful feeling. Oranges was one of my favorite fruits. So my conclusion is the body maybe has too much citrus acid or vitamin C. And when I get sick real sick once a year maybe body is low in vitamin c or citric acid. And maybe that why when I eat 1 orange I don’t get a reaction or hives or anything. To get my vitamin c I drink apple juice.one more thing the only thing that gets me real bad smell, touch or eat is the yellow lemons. The others I have to eat for a reaction. That’s my testimony I know one day it’s going to make my heart swollen or something to cause my death. My name is Joel sanchez. I live an Texas eagle pass grew up an Seattle Washington father of two wonderful boys age 12 and 11. So far I know they don’t have it or any other family members I have. so iam happy that Iam the only one that gots it..well if my advice helps someone. Then iam happy too my email is pyrotec50@gmail.com.

July 28th, 2017 | 12:24 am
Dawn:

John: you asked about cleaning products to use for someone with this allergy. I use Dawn dish soap, bleach, comet and mr clean with febreeze. Orange and lemon cleaners dominate the market of cleaning products. I have had no problems as long as I make sure nothing contains lemon or orange.

September 13th, 2017 | 4:06 pm
Lori:

I am analphalactic to citrus. Have been for 30 years.. developed the allergy in my teens. I grew up loving citrus fruits! My body didn’t and after getting sicker and sicker found out why the hard way lol
I am a label reader and don’t ingest until I know I’m safe, life is always a challenge when the general public wants citrus-everything. Public transportation is the worst as someone’s snack becomes airborne poison to me and I’m trapped. (I always have a scarf or something to cover my face so I can breathe.
It would be nice to only have to worry about canker sores!

November 4th, 2017 | 9:20 pm
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