Have you ever eaten a piece of fruit or a particular vegetable, probably something that you have always eaten before, and your mouth begins to itch? Maybe you bite into a juicy kiwi and suddenly your lips or your tongue begin to itch or perhaps your whole mouth itches after eating your favorite chips with guacamole. This sounds like a food allergy, but instead, it may very well be what is known as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). This syndrome actually differs from a food allergy and is very closely connected with pollen and seasonal allergies.
About 70% of people who suffer from pollen allergies, especially hay fever, experience Oral Allergy Syndrome. Usually the foods that bring on the allergy like symptoms are connected to the type of pollen allergy the person has. For example, those with springtime allergies due to tree pollen may find their mouths itch when they eat plums, peaches or apples, while those with ragweed allergies may have trouble with melons and cucumbers. For a more comprehensive list of the combinations of foods and seasonal allergies, see here.
Symptoms of OAS (Oral Allergy Syndrome) are usually more common and more severe during the connected allergy season. Though OAS is quite common, only a very small percentage of people with OAS find that the symptoms include anything more than itchy mouth or lips, and they usually last no longer than a few minutes, sometimes just seconds, unlike a true food allergy. Very rarely do the symptoms advance to hives, nausea or other food allergy symptoms. Anaphylaxis is rarely seen with Oral Allergy Syndrome.
Whereas those with a true food allergy should avoid the food that brings on symptoms altogether due to the much higher occurrence of severe reactions, those with Oral Allergy Syndrome can actually have the food, but to avoid the discomfort of the itchy mouth and lips, it should be baked or cooked first. Heating works to break down the molecules that cause the symptoms, and cooking does include canned and processed fruits, as well, like applesauce and canned peaches. Also, some people with OAS find that peeling the fruit works, or eating it directly after it is picked. The riper the fruit is, the worse the symptoms may be as well.
Oral Allergy Syndrome is also called Pollen Food Syndrome, due to the pollen connection. If treatment is sought, which usually is not due to the mild symptoms it produces, shots or NAET can be used. The treatment, however, needs to involve the pollen, not the fruit, as it is the pollen that is the cause of the reaction. For the mild discomfort during a reaction, an OTC antihistamine is the best choice for relief.
- Heather Legg