People with pollen allergies may take pains to prevent the sneezing, wheezing, itching and general discomfort precipitated by the great outdoors during the spring, summer and autumn months. However, pollinating trees, grass and weeds are not the only culprits to incite hay fever’s undesirable symptoms. For many seasonal allergy sufferers, the ingestion and handling of certain foods also can instigate allergic reactions. Avoiding these foods may prevent these reactions.
Oral Allergy Syndrome
Oral allergy syndrome, also known as pollen-food syndrome, is an allergic reaction caused by certain fruit, vegetable and nut proteins, which resemble the proteins of the pollens linked to hay fever. When your body fails to differentiate between pollen and food proteins, a cross-allergy occurs. Given the varied pollen proteins, the type of tree, grass or weed allergy you suffer from dictates which foods may trigger a cross-allergic reaction. These trigger foods cause greater trouble during the spring or early fall seasons, when the air is heavy with the culprit pollen. More prevalent among older children and adults, this syndrome afflicts up to 10 percent of individuals with hay fever.
Symptoms of oral allergy syndrome usually show themselves within minutes after eating or touching the trigger food. It's often characterized by burning and itching around the lips, mouth and throat, and additional symptoms include watery, itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing. Upon touching a food trigger, you may experience a rash, itch or swelling on your skin. More severe cases of oral allergy syndrome may feature vomiting, diarrhea, bronchial asthma and, in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock. Beans, celery, cumin, hazelnuts, kiwis, parsley and white potato are among the potential trigger foods associated with anaphylactic shock.
Cross-Reactive Foods, Tree Pollen
Among people with pollen allergies, those affected by birch pollen are most likely to experience oral allergy syndrome. Fruits that cross-react with birch pollen include apples, apricots, cherries, kiwis, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums; vegetables to avoid include carrots, celery, parsley, peanuts and soybeans. Birch pollen cross-reactivity has also been observed with almonds, hazelnuts and the spices aniseed, caraway, coriander and fennel. If you suffer an allergy to alder, elm or hazel tree pollens, you may also be vulnerable to cross-reactivity with these foods.
Cross-Reactive Foods, Grass and Weed Pollen
People with grass allergies could experience oral allergy syndrome symptoms from eating figs, melons, oranges, peas, peanuts and tomatoes. If you are allergic to ragweed pollen, known food offenders include artichokes, bananas, cucumbers, melons, peas and sunflower seeds, as well as chamomile tea and the herb echinacea. Mugwort pollen often interacts with apples, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, garlic, mustard, onion and parsley. Several spices also cross react with mugwort pollen: aniseed, black pepper, caraway, coriander and fennel.
The method of food preparation also has an impact: Raw and fresh fruits and vegetables tend to irritate whereas cooked fruits and vegetables may not. According to the Association of Allergists and Immunologists of Quebec, this discrepancy is related to the proteins’ low tolerance to heat. Nuts, however, pose an equal threat of cross reactivity whether cooked or raw. Because skins are believed to be more allergenic than other plant parts, peeling fruits and vegetables may prevent a reaction or reduce the reaction’s severity. If you wish to pinpoint cross-reactive foods for your pollen allergies, consult an allergist.