Do you get an itchy mouth and throat when you eat certain types of fruit? If so, you may have assumed you have a fruit allergy and stopped eating fruit. If these are your only symptoms, it’s likely you have a different form of allergy called oral allergy syndrome.
Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome?
Oral allergy syndrome is an allergic response to certain foods that only involves the oral cavity. Most commonly, people with oral allergy syndrome experience symptoms when they eat certain vegetables, fruits or nuts. People with oral allergy syndrome are also more likely to have environmental allergies such as allergies to trees or plants.
Oral allergy syndrome differs from typical allergies, because the symptoms are confined to the mouth and throat. A person with this condition usually experiences tingling and itchiness of their mouth and throat when they eat the offending food or foods, and they may have burning of their mouth or lips. Less commonly, they experience throat tightness and difficulty swallowing.
Although these symptoms may be uncomfortable, they don’t usually progress to more serious symptoms of anaphylaxis such as wheezing or difficulty breathing, although this can occur.
Diagnosing Oral Allergy Syndrome
If you have mouth tingling, burning or itching involving your mouth and throat when you eat certain fruits, vegetables or nuts, it’s likely you have oral allergy syndrome. This can be confirmed through allergy testing. Prior to allergy testing, keep a food diary to get a better idea of what foods trigger the symptoms, and let the allergist know.
Treating Oral Allergy Syndrome
Cooking fruits and vegetables may inactivate certain proteins and decrease the oral allergic response, but it’s best to avoid foods that trigger the symptoms since anaphylaxis can develop in rare cases.
In some cases, you may be asked to carry an epinephrine auto-injector to use if a severe reaction occurs. This is particularly true if you have oral allergy syndrome triggered by nuts since the risk of anaphylaxis may be higher than if fruits and vegetables cause the reaction.
Fruit Allergy or Oral Allergy Syndrome: The Bottom Line?
If you have symptoms of oral allergy syndrome, keep a food diary, and see an allergist for testing – and avoid the foods you’re sensitive to.
Medscape.com. “Diet and the Development of Atopic Disease: Oral Allergy Syndrome”
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.