Many people suffer from seasonal allergies, and according to National Jewish Health, those seasonal allergies may also affect the way a person's body reacts to certain fruits and vegetables.
As the organization reports, some fruits and veggies are made of proteins that are very similar to different plant pollens.
Because of the similarities, the immune system can mistake the fruit and vegetable proteins for pollen, causing those who suffer from seasonal allergies to suffer an allergic reaction to different foods as well.
Dr. Carah Santos, an allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver, explained to NPR:
“We call it cross-reactivity. Your immune system sees something as looking very similar to something it already reacts to.”
Many of the reactions involve symptoms like an itchy or tingling mouth and swollen lips or tongue.
According to National Jewish Health, this type of reaction is called an “oral allergy syndrome,” or OAS.
An infographic provided by National Jewish Health lists all of the fruits and vegetables someone with an allergy to trees, grasses, and weeds may react to:
Spring tree pollen — Birch: Apple, Apricot, Carrot, Celery, Cherry, Kiwi, Peach, Pear, Plum, Almond and Hazelnut
Summer grass pollen — Timothy & Orchard: Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Orange, Tomato, Watermelon
Fall weed pollen — Mugwort & Ragweed: Banana, Cantaloupe, Carrot, Celery, Cucumber, Honeydew, Peach, Watermelon, Zucchini
Unfortunately, tests that would normally detect regular food allergies do not detect allergies in people who suffer from OAS.
Santos told NPR that OAS is “one of the most underreported and under-recognized conditions.” She suggests those with symptoms cook the foods that give them reactions, as the cooking process:
“[C]an degrade the proteins that look like the pollen.”
National Jewish Heath also provides recommendations on how to treat symptoms of OAS:
- Avoid raw foods that cross-react with your pollen allergens.
- Take oral antihistamine medications to relieve mild symptoms.
- Bake or cook foods to degrade the protein and eliminate the cross reaction.
- Eat canned fruits or vegetables during your pollen season.
- Peel the food as the protein is often concentrated in the skin.
As National Jewish Health points out, if the reaction to the food gets worse or the reaction starts to occur while eating nuts, it's very important to see an allergist or doctor immediately.