Most individuals complain bitterly that their mouths itch as soon as they finish eating an apple. Have you ever noticed that yourself? If you are in this category of people, then this article is rightly for you. If your mouth itches you, which could lead to an unbearable health condition such as hay fever, it means you’ve got an apple allergy. Apple allergies can affect anyone of any age, ethnic group, and gender.
Immediately after eating an apple and you feel that your mouth is itching, you’ve developed a kind of apple allergy known as oral allergy syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome). This occurs as a result of the allergic reaction and that you are sensitive to a type of protein found in apples which is similar to pollens found in birch trees. This type of apple allergy affects older children and adults where there are cooler climates and more prevalence of birch trees.
The immune system produces antibodies. These antibodies are directed against the proteins present in apples which are structurally similar to proteins in pollens, thus resulting in allergic symptoms limited to the oral cavity. How does one get infected by pollen allergies in the first place? This occurs by repeated exposure to the pollen of some plants usually pollinated by air and the pollen easily gets to the surface of the pulmonary alveoli.
These proteins present in apples and pollens confuse the immune system and cause an allergic reaction called cross-reactivity. Often than not, symptoms appear immediately after eating raw fruits or veggies. Although in rare cases, the reaction can occur about an hour later. Generally, OAS is considered to be a mild form of food allergy. However, it can cause severe throat swellings which could lead to difficulty in swallowing, but this has been reported in unusual cases.
Let’s consider cross-reactivity of other allergens.
Cross-Reactivity of Different Allergens
We have seen the reason why people have an itchy throat after eating an apple- the immune system gets confused between the proteins in pollen and those found in apples. However, there are other fruits and veggies which share similar cross-reactivity issues and are considered below.
People with allergies to orchard grasses have symptoms when eating: tomatoes, peaches, oranges, watermelons, honeydew, and cantaloupe.
People with allergies to mugwort have symptoms when eating: bell pepper and coriander
People with allergies to ragweed have symptoms when eating: banana, cucumber, zucchini, and melon.
People with allergies to birch have symptoms when eating: almond, garlic, and celery (in addition to apples).
However, studies have shown that more than 50% of people with allergies to birch pollen react to raw apples.
Avoiding Symptoms of OAS
If you notice symptoms of OAS, avoid eating certain raw foods, especially during the allergy season since OAS in patients worsens during the pollen season of the particular pollen in question. The best way to avoid oral allergy syndrome, according to allergists, is to put an end to all those fruits that cause you problems.
It could also be avoided when you cook or microwave the food before eating because high temperature breaks down the proteins responsible for oral allergy syndrome. Instead of eating raw apples, they can be substituted with an apple juice or applesauce. These do not create any problems.
You can also try eating canned food as they help to limit the reaction.
For some, peeling the skins of foods before eating is very healthy because the protein which causes this reaction is often concentrated in the skin.
The diagnosis is very similar to other allergy diagnoses. Your doctor, an allergist will first ask questions about the history of your symptoms. He would then run a skin prick test or a blood test which helps to confirm the diagnosis and the type of pollen you’ve been infected with. This test also goes a long way to test for food allergies. In testing for oral allergy syndrome, pollen will be positive and food will show negativity.
However, you ought to see your doctor if these conditions exist:
Your oral allergy syndrome symptoms are getting worse
Your oral allergy syndrome symptoms are caused by cooked fruits and veggies
You develop systemic reactions (which may include hives and vomiting) after eating your raw fruits or veggies.