Pollen allergies? Watch Out for Certain Foods

**By Megan Clark**

Colorful cut vegetablesEver wonder why your mouth itches when you eat certain fruits and vegetables?  The simple answer may be that you’re having an allergic reaction, to the proteins in fruits and vegetables related to tree, grass and weed pollen. It’s called Oral Allergy Syndrome and it means that if you have an allergic reaction to plant pollen, you are more than likely to have an allergy to at least one food.

“A subset of people with certain pollen allergies like birch or grass pollen can experience this condition known as oral allergy syndrome or pollen food allergy syndrome,” explains David Jeong, MD, an allergist at Virginia Mason Medical Center.  “The reaction is a contact hive reaction in the mouth and throat from certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that contain pollen-related proteins.”

People who suffer from a pollen food allergy can expect an itchy mouth or throat, tingling, minor swelling of the lips and tongue, and sometimes, a sensation of minor swelling of the back of the throat. One other thing to know about “itchy mouth” syndrome from oral allergies is that the condition is not seasonal, even if symptoms seem worse during the spring. But, the good news is that most oral allergy syndrome symptoms resolve themselves fairly quickly.

“As the foods pass into the stomach, the food proteins get degraded quickly, thereby preventing a prolonged reaction and stopping the reaction in most cases from becoming systemic,” says Dr. Jeong, who recommends oral antihistamines if you want to relieve the symptoms of pollen allergy food syndrome quickly.

So if you have allergies, what should you watch out for?

If you are allergic to Birch tree pollen, be careful when eating apples, peaches, plums, pears, cherries and apricots.  Soybeans, peanuts and hazelnuts can also cause a reaction, along with carrots, celery, parsley and seeds like caraway, fennel, coriander and aniseed.

If Ragweed makes you miserable, watch out for cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, zucchini, cucumbers and bananas.

An allergy to Mugwort can give you an itchy mouth from celery, carrots, parsley, bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, garlic, onion and peach. Seeds you might want to avoid include caraway, fennel, coriander, aniseed mustard and black pepper.

If you have trouble with Orchard Grass pollen, be careful eating cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.

An allergy to Timothy Grass could leave your mouth itchy from consuming Swiss chard or oranges.

Dr. Jeong recommends avoiding consuming culprit foods raw to avoid experiencing an itchy mouth or throat.  But, there’s also another option.

“These foods will usually be well tolerated if well cooked,” suggests Dr. Jeong. “Some may have reactions to certain foods even if they have been cooked, but that is less common.”

Megan Clark is a multimedia storyteller and health content producer based in Seattle.