Have you ever found that one day eating a raw fruit or vegetable makes your mouth itchy or irritated? Maybe this food has never cause you trouble before, and the symptoms go away quickly? You may have a condition called Oral Allergy Syndrome. This mild and usually not life-threatening condition can come on later in life.
Oral Allergy Syndrome
Typically, you must first have seasonal allergy reactions to experience Oral Allergy Syndrome. Oral Allergy Syndrome is when your body reacts to food proteins that are similar to problematic pollen. It is sometimes also referred to as pollen-food allergy syndrome, highlighting this connection.
There are proteins in raw fruit and vegetables that are similar in structure to pollen. If your body has an allergic reaction to pollen, it will sometimes react in the same way to these fruits and veggies. Surprisingly, these same foods in cooked form are unlikely to bother you. That’s because the structure of the proteins changes when your foods are cooked.
OAS can be really confusing for some people, because it is very uncommon in children. Instead, it tends to affect older children, teens, or adults who may have eaten these trigger foods hundreds of times before with no issue. Essentially, your body has natural thresholds for managing allergens. When those thresholds are reached and then exceeded, your body begins reacting sooner and with greater magnitude than before.
- Itchy, irritated throat, tongue, mouth, and gums
- Swelling of any skin that comes into contact with the allergen- fingers, lips, tongue, throat
- Sometimes hives appear in the mouth.
- Anaphylaxis is very uncommon, but has been reported a few times
Every person is slightly different, but generally speaking if you suffer from birch, ragweed, or grass allergies you are eligible to develop OAS over time. If you react to birch pollen you may eventually react to: apples, almonds, carrots, celery, cherries, hazelnuts, kiwis, peaches, pears, or plums. Ragweed sufferers may find their bodies eventually respond to: bananas, cucumbers, melons, sunflower seeds, or zucchinis. Grass allergies can eventually lead to a reaction when you eat: celery, melons, oranges, peaches, or tomatoes.
Diagnosis & Management
If you think you may be experiencing Oral Allergy Syndrome, contact your doctor or a local allergist. They can diagnose you based on your symptoms, or by conducting tests. Most of the time no treatment is necessary as symptoms go away when you stop eating problematic foods. If the symptoms bother you, try eating the food in a different form, like cooked, and see if your body still reacts. It’s possible that a food may bother you raw or roasted, but is fine when fried. If your symptoms extend beyond your mouth, you should consider that food strictly off limits as it may increase your risk of anaphylactic reactions.
If you are experiencing itchy mouth that doesn’t seem to be related to eating specific foods, talk with your doctor or dentist to learn more about other causes for itchy mouth.