Print Print this Page

Pollen Allergies and Oral Allergy Syndrome

Does your mouth ever feel tingly and itchy when you eat certain fruits, and you’re not sure why? Does it seem to be worse when pollens are abundant in the air? You may be suffering from Oral Allergy Syndrome.

Because many fruits and vegetables have proteins that cross-react with pollen proteins, if you have pollen allergies, your body may also set off an immune response when you eat certain foods. The proteins in these foods are so similar to the pollen proteins, that your body can’t tell the difference. You may experience itchiness, tingling, swelling or even hives in your mouth or throat, or you may feel nauseous. In extreme cases, it can lead to anaphylaxis, although this is rare (about 2%). Typically, the symptoms are mild and temporary. It is more prevalent in adults than children.

If you do have any type of pollen allergy or suffer from hay fever, these are some foods to which you may react:

  • Ragweed allergy: Bananas and melons may be a problem for you. Be cautious of cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelons, and tomatoes. You may also have a problem with zucchini, sunflower seeds, dandelions, chamomile tea, and Echinacea.
  • Birch tree pollen allergy: You may react to kiwi, apples, pears, peaches, plums, coriander, fennel, parsley, celery, cherries, carrots, hazelnuts, and almonds. 
  • Grass allergy: Oral allergy syndrome may come from eating peaches, celery, tomatoes, melons, and oranges. 
  • Latex rubber allergy: Be cautious of bananas, avocadoes, kiwi, chestnut, and papaya.

The good news is that you will probably be able to eat these foods if they have been cooked or canned, as the reaction usually only occurs when eating them in their raw state. Cooking and canning them cause the proteins to be broken down, and thus be less offensive to the immune system. You may also get some relief simply by removing the skin.

If you think you are experiencing Oral Allergy Syndrome, the first step is always to avoid that food. Seeing a board-certified allergist is also suggested. He or she can help you pinpoint what is causing your allergic reaction and offer advice and treatment. Most of the time, simple avoidance will be the cure, but if it is something more serious, epinephrine or allergy shots may be prescribed.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Network