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The Fruit and Vegetable Section

Oral Allergy Syndrome: Why do Pollens and Foods Cross-React?

Pan-allergen relationships don’t stop with birch trees. The allergenic components of grass pollen are also shared with melons, oranges, kiwi, tomatoes and peanuts, among others.

Those who suffer in the fall from ragweed allergy (mainly in the northeast of the continent) can get itchy mouths from banana, melons, zucchini and cucumber. (See Chart: plants that cross-react.)

For those reactive to ragweed, serious cross-reactions are also possible from consuming chamomile, honey and echinacea. This is not oral allergy syndrome, however. In this case, it’s because they belong to the same botanical family.

Apples and Peaches and Oral Allergy

The better news for spring is that although trees such as maple, oak and poplar produce allergenic pollens, they don’t share reaction-causing proteins with foods. Nor does having allergies to birch, alder, grass or ragweed mean you’ll necessarily cross-react with the implicated foods.

And, if you do react, you may not be allergic to every food on the list.

Some fruits and vegetables, however, are more troublesome. Apples, for instance, more often trigger oral allergy syndrome than pears. According to Japanese research, in the plum family, cherries and peaches are more likely to irritate than apricots and plums.

It may even depend on which variety of the fruit you eat. European studies, for example, have found that gala and golden delicious apples have higher levels of allergenic proteins than Braeburn or Santana apples, and are more likely to cause reactions.

Reactions Beyond the Spring

What foods you will react to also depends on genetics, and where you live, Ham Pong adds.

Although hay fever lasts just weeks or months, people with oral allergy syndrome typically react to the offending foods year-round. Some, however, find symptoms worse during allergy season.

Still, if OAS sounds like nature’s cruel double whammy, take comfort in the upside: most of these pan-allergens succumb to cooking.

Next: Cooking Out Trouble

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Allergic Living acknowledges the assistance of the OMDC Magazine Fund, an initative of the Ontario Media Development Cooperation.