A Litte Apple Picking -- and Oral Allergy Syndrome

by Sloane Miller Patient Advocate

It's that time of year here in the Northeast. Pumpkin patches, hayrides, mulled apple cider and lovely crisp weather. Well, hold off on that last part. I went apple picking in South Eastern Connecticut and it was well over 80 degrees

No matter. The drive up the Merritt Parkway was lovely: full green trees just beginning to turn into golden reds and yellows and leaves swirling like in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" cartoon. [Remember? Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin in the sky?]

Once we arrived at Silverman's Farm we waited in line with our plastic sack to get on the tractor, which would take us through to the orchards. From the minute we headed up the hill I knew I was in nature and something was not agreeing with me. First, the strong smell of mulch surrounded us. It was really strong. Then there was a dirt dust cloud that was kicked up by the tractor, which, as we ascended, our tractor drove through. The cloud entered my lungs and basically stayed there for the morning, giving me an asthma itch immediately. But not terrible, no need for meds, just annoying.

We reached the top of the hill, a five-minute ride at most, and I told my apple-picking buddy, "Um, I think I'm allergic to something so we may have to move through this a bit quicker than normal." I figured I was already there and if it became worse I'd take my inhaler and get back in the air-conditioned car and go home. Apple picking buddy, who has severe latex allergies among others, was totally cool with a swift sweep through the orchard.

We disembarked the tractor pull and started picking through the low apple trees. Here's a picture of the first tree:


Of course, you have to test the goods: every tree is different, every type of apple is different. There were four varieties to choose from: Fujis, Autumn Galas, Sun Crisps and Camios. However, after the first test bite I realized this wasn't a great idea either, the testing part.

I'm not allergic to apples, not normally, but it's happened a few times in the recent past that I felt allergic while eating an apple. I couldn't figure it out. Then I read about oral allergy syndrome. Have you heard of this? It explains what happened when I ate the apple, that itchy-mouth funny feeling.

According to AAAI: "Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is a reaction to certain raw or fresh fruits or other foods that occurs in people who have been sensitized to airborne pollen. The syndrome is caused by a cross reactivity between airborne pollen proteins (tree, grass, weeds, plants), and proteins in fruits or vegetables. In people who are already allergic to pollen, the body's immune system sees a similarity between the proteins of pollen and those of the food, and triggers a reaction."

So that was me, oral allergy symptom girl: feeling a little itchy in my mouth, a little itchy in my chest and a little wheezy. Ah well. We spent an hour picking apples, which we're going to sauce next weekend. (Cooking reduces the itchy feeling for most allergy sufferers.) The weather was warm and we both got a little of the early autumn sun. And as soon as I got into the car, I cranked the a/c and back we drove to the smog filled, nature-free city, itching all the way.


See Sloane's other articles:

An annual struggle: On flu shots and allergies

The New Mom: In a kitchen near you...

Nervously waiting for new inhalers

Sloane Miller
Meet Our Writer
Sloane Miller

Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, specialist in food allergy management and author, is founder and President of Allergic Girl Resources, Inc., a consultancy devoted to food allergy awareness. She consults with private clients, the healthcare, food, and hospitality industries, government and not-for-profit advocacy organizations. In 2006, Ms. Miller started Please Don't Pass the Nuts, an award-winning blog for and about people affected by food allergies. In 2011, John Wiley & Sons published Ms. Miller's book, Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well With Food Allergies, the definitive how-to guide. Ms. Miller combines a lifetime of personal experience and passion with professional expertise to connect with people about how to live safely, effectively, and joyously with food allergies.