More than 160 foods can cause allergic reactions in people with food allergies, although bananas are an uncommon culprit, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But for those affected by banana allergies, an array of symptoms can occur -- including the most severe reaction of anaphylactic shock. However, the most common banana allergy symptoms include hives, swelling and wheezing, and usually develop right after eating the fruit.
Symptoms of banana allergy can vary widely, and are similar to the symptoms of other food allergies. According to the FDA, symptoms may include hives, rash, swelling or itching of the mouth or throat, asthma-like symptoms, gastrointestinal complaints including vomiting and diarrhea, and the most severe response of anaphylaxis -- which can lead to loss of consciousness and death. Anaphylaxis from bananas is rare, but some cases have been reported, according to a February 2014 article published in “Journal of Medical Case Reports.”
Oral Allergy Symptoms
Allergies are an immune system’s overreaction to the protein in a food. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the proteins in banana are similar to the proteins in ragweed and melons. So if you are allergic to the pollen from ragweed, you are more likely to have allergic reactions to these fruit. This cross-reactivity between fruits or vegetables and pollen is known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS), with common symptoms of itchiness, or swelling of the mouth, lips, face, throat and tongue. Symptoms often occur immediately, but sometimes may not show up for 1 hour.
Latex Allergy Symptoms
If you have an allergy to latex, or natural rubber products, you may also experience an allergic response or other severe reaction after consuming bananas. Often termed latex-fruit allergy, the proteins in rubber tree sap can cause cross-reactivity to the proteins in several nuts and fruit, including bananas. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, common symptoms of latex allergy, and latex-fruit allergy, include asthma-like symptoms, hives, swelling, runny nose, sneezing and inflammation of the eyes. Anaphylaxis, a life threatening reaction, is also a potential with latex allergy. However, symptoms from latex-fruit allergy are typically not as severe.
Not all reactions from food are allergies. Food intolerance may be a factor, which is often marked by gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloating, gas, cramping or diarrhea. If you suspect you have a food allergy, see your doctor or an allergist for testing, treatment and recommendations of which foods to avoid. It’s also important to understand the cross-reactivity that may occur from other foods. For example, if you have a kiwi allergy, you are more likely to experience allergic reactions to banana and avocado. If you need guidance on how to plan a healthy diet around your food allergies, and to ensure you are avoiding the appropriate foods, ask for a referral to a dietitian. Serious allergy symptoms that require immediate medical assistance include a weak or racing pulse, difficulty breathing or swallowing, lightheadedness and sudden loss of consciousness.
Revised and reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH, RD