Itchy Throat? It's Called Oral Allergy Syndrome
“Of all the allergy symptoms I have, an itchy throat is the most bothersome for me.”
If you get an itchy throat or mouth, especially after eating fresh fruit or vegetables AND it gets worse during high-pollen times of year, you may be suffering from oral allergy syndrome. What is oral allergy syndrome? It’s also called pollen-food syndrome and it’s related to "hay fever." Oral allergy syndrome is an allergic reaction to the proteins in many fruits, vegetables and nuts that are similar to the proteins in the pollen. It’s called a "cross reaction." In other words, if you are very allergic to particular pollen, that reaction may crossover to other parts of the same or similar plant. For example, if you’re very allergic to birch tree pollen, you may develop itchy throat after eating apples, peaches, cherries, pears, even carrots, kiwis and walnuts!
What are common oral allergy symptoms? Some common symptoms are: • Itchy throat • Itchy mouth • Itchy eyes • Tingling in the mouth, lips or throat • Swelling of the mouth, lips or throat • Burning sensation in the lips, mouth or throat • Runny Nose • Sneezing
More serious symptoms have been reported including hives, rashes, vomiting, asthma and anaphylaxis, which occur almost immediately, but sometimes may not come on for over an hour. The best (and really only) treatment for anaphylaxis is a shot of epinephrine. If your doctor has prescribed an Epipen for you, you should carry it with you at all times.
Does the season matter? People may experience oral allergy symptoms all year round, but they tend to be worse during “allergy seasons,” when there is a lot of pollen in the air.
Spring and summer allergies in North America are generally triggered by tree and grass pollens. People allergic to grass may have reactions to melons, tomatoes and kiwis. People allergic to trees (particularly birch trees) may have reactions to pears, plums, parsley, dill, potatoes, lentils, almonds and walnuts.
Late summer and fall allergies in North America are generally caused by ragweed pollen. People allergic to ragweed may develop an itchy throat after eating banana, cucumber, melon, zucchini or sunflower seeds or when consuming or drinking tea made from chamomile or Echinacea.
What can I do about it? Avoid eating the foods that cause you itchy throat raw. Generally, cooking or microwaving the foods destroys the proteins in the food that cause the allergic reaction, which can eliminate or reduce the reaction. Be careful, because that isn’t always the case. You can also try buying these foods canned.
Otherwise, the most effective treatment may be whatever you normally take to relieve your other allergy symptoms such as runny nose or itchy eyes.
Other people have found other methods that work for them, but always discuss any treatments or remedies with your doctor.
This article was compiled with information from:
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
“Food Allergy: Fundamentals and Beyond” Presentation by Dr. Robert Wood, director, Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine