Food allergies are common with certain foods, such as peanuts, milk and eggs, but virtually any food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction. People that are allergic to okra can develop allergic symptoms from eating or picking this vegetable; in addition, you may be allergic to other related foods if you are allergic to okra.
Food Allergy Physiology
Food allergies are due to your immune system being unusually sensitive to molecules, known as antigens, found in food. Antigens are compounds that the immune system binds to and can elicit an immunological reaction. If you are allergic to a food, some of its antigens will trigger an unusually severe immune response because your immune system will regard the antigens as a sign of a foreign invader. This leads to massive inflammation, mitigated by a type of antibody known as IgE.
Okra Allergy Symptoms
The symptoms of an okra allergy often manifest after you eat the food. The symptoms of a food allergy are hives, itching, tingling of the mouth, wheezing, nasal congestion, dizziness, fainting, hoarseness and swelling of the face, lips, throat and tongue. In rare cases food allergies can cause anaphylaxis, which is marked by systemic inflammation that can cause obstruction of the esophagus, trachea and ultimately lead to shock. A 1993 issue of "Environmental Research" also contains a case report of two workers who developed a skin rash after picking okra, so an okra allergy can manifest purely from contact with this vegetable.
One way to determine if your allergy symptoms are caused by okra is to keep a journal that lists every day that you have allergy symptoms as well as all the foods you eat. If your symptoms reliably follow contact with okra, you may have an okra allergy. A more definitive diagnosis can be reached via tests that look for the presence of IgE molecules that react with some of the compounds in okra.
The simplest way to treat an okra allergy is to avoid eating or coming into contact with okra. People who are allergic to okra may also be allergic to gumbo, althea tea and cottonseed meal and oil, because these foods have antigens that are similar to okra. In some cases, mild okra allergies can be treated using antihistamines and other anti-allergy medications. Talk to your doctor if you have an okra allergy to determine an appropriate treatment plan.