Lychee is a tropical and subtropical fruit cultivated around the world but native to China and Southeast Asia. It is an exotic fruit that is becoming popular in Western diets. For this reason, documented cases of lychee allergies are few, new and rising. You can develop an allergic reaction to lychee from consuming raw, fresh or canned varieties of the fruit. Lychee allergies are anaphylactic reactions, which involves the immunoglobulin, IgE, specific to the lychee, although in certain cases of the allergy no lychee-specific IgE was detected.
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The symptoms of lychee allergies include hives, itching, labored breathing and swelling of the tongue and lips. The onset of these symptoms is rapid and you can already have severe allergic reactions to lychee less than one hour after ingesting the fruit.
A skin prick test can be used to determine whether you are allergic to lychee. It involves exposing areas of the skin to extracts of fresh or canned lychee fruits. A positive reaction will results in wheals appearing on the tested skin surface. Other specialized tests for lychee allergies include cellular antigen stimulation test or CAST and basophil activation test or BAT.
If you are allergic to lychee, you might be allergic to certain related plants. For example, some people who suffer from conjunctivitis and asthma-like symptoms when exposed to pollen and seeds of certain plants are known to be allergic to lychee. This is an example of oral food allergy syndrome. The allergen is believed to be a substance called profilin, a known plant allergen, which is found in lychee in significant amounts. If you have been desensitized against profilin because of your allergies to other plants then there is a good chance you will develop a severe anaphylactic reaction to lychee. A lychee allergy is also likely if you are allergic to parsley, plants of the mugworth family or latex.
Lychee allergies can produce severe symptoms including generalized hives, extensive swelling and labored breathing. Therefore, you should seek urgent medical care if you experience any of these symptoms upon consuming lychee. Corticosteroids and antihistamines are the main drugs used in the management of lychee allergies. They reduce the swelling and itching experienced until the allergen is cleared from your body.