CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Has your mouth ever felt tingly or itchy after eating fruits, vegetables or nuts? If so, it could be a mild allergy.
Oral allergy syndrome is common and often found in people who suffer from hay fever, according to Cleveland Clinic allergist Sandra Hong, MD.
“They’re actually allergic to the pollens outdoors,” said Dr. Hong. “For instance, ragweed – carrots can give them problems and celery. If they’re allergic to birch, a tree pollen, they can also have trouble with things like apples. And so when they bite into it they can actually have tingling of their lips, they can have itching. ”
Dr. Hong said people who have oral allergy syndrome are often allergic to birch, ragweed or grass pollens.
She said proteins in some raw produce and nuts are very similar to these outdoor pollens and may cause an itchy mouth, scratchy throat or swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue and throat.
Symptoms don’t last long once the food is swallowed and treatment is not usually required.
Once the problematic produce is cooked, Dr. Hong said the protein breaks down and no longer causes symptoms for most people.
“They can eat it cooked. So, for instance, an apple. Biting into an apple can give them problems but they can tolerate apple juice, apple pies, apple sauce without any difficulties whatsoever,” said Dr. Hong.
Dr. Hong warned that if cooking doesn’t take care of the itching or tingling it may be a more serious food allergy and it’s probably best to avoid that food. She added that someone with symptoms that spread beyond the mouth should see an allergist to assess their risk of a more serious reaction.