Could Your Child Have a Fruit Allergy?

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Most people are aware of the top eight food allergens, yet it’s possible to be affected by less common food allergens. One of these is a fruit allergy. This post will give you an overview of this allergy, help you recognize the symptoms and cover ways to manage this allergy in your child.

Fruit Allergy Overview

If your child reacts to fruit, it’s likely they have oral allergy syndrome, or OAS. This condition is otherwise referred to as pollen food syndrome (PFS), and it can include a reaction to certain vegetables and tree nuts as well.

This allergy is a type of cross-reactivity, where your body reacts to proteins in fruit because they are similar to pollen from plants. If your child is allergic to certain plant pollens, they may also react to fruit with pollen-like proteins. The reactions occur when eating the raw fruit, whereas the proteins change when the fruit is heated, which generally prevents the allergic reaction.

It’s not likely that you’ll see symptoms of this allergy in young children. Commonly, the reaction suddenly happens in older children as well as in teens and young adults.

Instead of OAS, it’s possible that your child has:

  • A different type of fruit allergy, such as a lipid-transfer protein (LTP) allergy to a plant protein

  • An intolerance to food chemicals or the fructose sugar found in the fruit

But it’s most likely that your child has OAS instead. Talk to your allergist to get a proper diagnosis.

Symptoms of Fruit Allergy

OAS is characterized by these symptoms:

  • Mouth itchiness

  • Mouth, lip, tongue and throat swelling

  • Throat scratchiness

  • Ear itchiness

  • Mouth hives

The symptoms of OAS are not generally severe, and anaphylaxis is rare. Nonetheless, it has happened in some cases. If your child does experience more severe symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing or reactions when the food is cooked, talk to your allergist about whether you should have an epinephrine auto-injector.

Which Fruits Pose a Problem?

Usually, OAS happens because of cross-reactivity from an allergy to pollen from grass, birch or ragweed. These outdoor allergies can show themselves through reactions to certain fruits:

Grass pollen allergies:

  • Peaches

  • Oranges

  • Melons

  • Tomato

Birch pollen allergies:

  • Apples

  • Apricot

  • Kiwi

  • Cherries

  • Peaches

  • Pears

  • Plums

Ragweed pollen allergies:

  • Bananas

  • Watermelon

  • Cantaloupes

  • Honeydew melons

Certain vegetables and nuts are also associated with this cross-reactivity. Nonetheless, an allergy to these pollens won’t always cause a reaction to foods with pollen-like proteins, and it’s possible for someone to react only to one or a few fruits on the list rather than all of them.

It’s also possible to be allergic to other types of fruits or from a cross-reactivity to a different pollen. For example, Timothy and orchard grasses are associated with allergies to peaches, watermelon, oranges and tomato.

How to Manage a Fruit Allergy

Generally, the symptoms of OAS go away quickly and are not severe, and treatment is not usually required. Nonetheless, there are certain ways you can manage this allergy to minimize discomfort, including:

  • Avoid the fruits that cause a reaction.

  • Avoid consuming large amounts of raw fruit too quickly, such as through a smoothie.

  • Cook or bake the fruits before eating them.

  • Try a canned version of the fruit.

  • Don’t assume your child is allergic to all fruits because they’re allergic to one or more.

  • Peel the fruit to see if that takes away the allergic reaction, as the skin contains concentrated pollen-like proteins.

  • Talk to your allergist about whether antihistamines or allergy shots could help.

 

To learn more about oral allergy syndrome and fruit allergies, click here.