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Oral Allergy Syndrome

Oral allergy syndrome is the medical term for an allergic reaction to food which is limited to the lips, mouth and throat.

It is a reaction to certain proteins in fruit, vegetables and nuts and is usually confined to the mouth, lips, tongue or throat area.  Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) or Pollen food syndrome is normally linked to the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables with sufferers able to consume the food after cooking. It has also been found that if you do suffer from OAS you will often have an associated allergy to certain pollens and may get hay fever when these pollens are in season.

So this link between pollen and Oral Allergy Syndrome looks like this:

Birch tree pollen 

  • associated fruit includes: apple, apricot, cherry, kiwi, nectarine, peach, pear, plum, prune
  • associated vegetables include: anise, beans, caraway, carrot, celery, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, green pepper, lentils, parsley, parsnips, peanut, peas, potato, tomato
  • associated nuts: almond, hazelnut, walnut
  • associated seeds: sunflower

Grass Pollen

  • associated fruit includes: kiwi, melon, orange, tomato, watermelon

Ragweed Pollen

  • associated fruit includes: banana, rockmelon, honeydew, watermelon
  • associated vegetables include: cucumber, zucchini

Symptoms may include

  • itching and burning of the lips, mouth and throat
  • watery itchy eyes
  • runny nose
  • sneezing

Symptoms usually develop within minutes of eating or touching the food, but occasionally occur more than an hour later.

Sufferers often complain that something is stuck in their throat but progression to a severe reaction is unlikely. For some people, peeling or touching the offending foods may cause a rash, itching or swelling where the food touches the skin.

If you have oral allergy symptoms, it is important that you are referred to an allergy specialist. This will ensure that you have a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Most reactions are caused by raw food with the most notable exceptions being celery and nuts, which may cause reactions even after being cooked. 

Avoidance of the foods that cause your reactions is most important and tips for this include

  • avoiding dried or dehydrated forms of the foods
  • cooking the food to destroy the protein that causes the reaction
  • avoiding many cosmetics and fruit-based shampoos
  • storing some fruit for longer before consumption can reduce the allergenic characteristics

There is no reason to avoid cooked, canned, or processed forms of the foods that do not cause symptoms.

If a reaction starts

  • rinse the mouth with some plain water and rest
  • consider drinking a hot to inactivate residual allergen.

The tingling, itching and swelling should settle within 30 minutes to an hour. 
If the symptoms are unpleasant you may need to try an antihistamine.

If breathing becomes difficult or the throat feels like it is swelling, seek urgent medical attention.

Additional Resources: