Figs are a delicious and nutritious fruit. But for some, this sweet summer snack may cause a reaction if you have a fig allergy.
Here's everything you need to know about allergic reactions to figs, including what causes them and how to treat them.
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Visit your doctor if you regularly react to figs (or any other food, for that matter). They can help you determine if you have an allergy and, if so, how best to treat it.
Causes of a Fig Allergy
Despite their health benefits, it's possible to be allergic to figs. Here's the breakdown of how the fruit (and it's tree) can cause an allergic reaction and why:
1. Fig Food Allergy
Though figs aren't one of the major food allergens (i.e., it's not a common allergy), it's certainly possible to be allergic to the fruit itself.
2. Fig Tree Allergy
It's more common to have an allergy to fig leaves and the root sap of fig trees, according to January 2019 research in the Indian Journal of Dermatology. This can include house plants like the weeping fig.
This type of allergy usually causes skin reactions (more on that in a moment).
3. Latex Allergy
Sometimes figs aren't to blame for your fig allergy. According to the Cleveland Clinic, people with a latex allergy are more likely to have an allergic reaction to certain fruits, including figs.
Other foods to avoid if you have a latex allergy include the following, per the Cleveland Clinic:
- Fruits like apples, bananas, avocados, peaches, nectarines, kiwi, melon, papayas and tomatoes
- Vegetables like potatoes, celery and carrots
Fig Allergy Symptoms
If you're allergic (or suspect you're allergic) to figs, watch out for the following symptoms when you eat or come in contact with them, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Tingly or itchy mouth
- Skin rashes like hives or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat
- Wheezing or trouble breathing
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
- Digestive symptoms like diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
You may experience similar symptoms if you have a latex allergy and react to figs, per the Cleveland Clinic.
On the other hand, if you're allergic to fig tree sap, you'll notice mostly skin-related symptoms, per the Indian Journal of Dermatology research. They usually crop up about 24 hours after exposure, and may include:
- Burning sensation
- Itchy, red rash
Some people have an extreme allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, where your throat closes up and makes it difficult to breathe, per the Mayo Clinic. Seek medical care immediately if this happens to you.
Fig Allergy Treatment
If you regularly have an allergic reaction to figs, see your doctor so they can confirm this diagnosis and decide on the best line of treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you do indeed have a food allergy (or a latex allergy), your best bet is to avoid the fruit entirely.
If you're accidentally exposed, though, your doctor may recommend prescribed antihistamines, an epinephrine auto-injector (like an EpiPen) or, in extreme cases, a trip to the emergency room, per the Mayo Clinic.
Similarly, your doctor can help you determine the best treatment for a fig tree allergy if you accidentally make contact with the sap. According to the Indian Journal of Dermatology research, this may include medication or bandaging of the affected area.
Figs share some common antigens with other related plants, so it's possible you may experience an allergic reaction to these fruits or their pollens.
In fact, cross allergies are a common feature of oral allergy syndrome — when your body's immune system confuses the proteins found in pollen with those found in fruits and vegetables, and causes an allergic reaction around the face and mouth, per the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
According to an older but still-relevant April 2010 study in Clinical & Experimental Allergy of 85 people with a birch pollen allergy, 78 percent experienced a reaction to fresh fig. A majority also reacted to these related allergens:
- Rosaceae fruits like apples, pears and plums
However, larger studies need to be conducted to better establish this link.
As always, it's best to talk to your doctor about whether you should avoid other foods if you have a known fig allergy.
Are Figs Good for You?
Like all fruits, figs are packed with good-for-you nutrients that make them a healthy snack (if you're not allergic to them).
Among the health benefits: Figs are fiber-rich (one large fig contains about 2 grams of fiber, per the USDA), which can aid in digestion and the breakdown of sugar in your body, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Plus, they provide essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium, per the American Heart Association.
And dried figs, in particular, contain phytochemicals (plant-based nutrients), and antioxidants, which can help improve your immune function and prevent certain diseases, per UCLA Health.
While some people think figs are inflammatory, they actually contain anti-inflammatory properties such as polyphenols and flavonoids, which may work to decrease the effect of pro-inflammatory markers in the body, per a small March 2022 review in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences.
Nutrition Content of Figs
Figs are a healthy, sweet treat. Here's a breakdown of their nutrient content, per the USDA:
Nutrient Facts for One Medium-Sized Fig
How to Eat Figs
If you're not allergic to figs, there are a number of creative ways you can enjoy them, besides in plain slices. Try delicious fig recipes, including:
When to See a Doctor
If you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction after eating figs or any of the possible cross-allergens, see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
If you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as trouble breathing, dizziness or fainting, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for immediate treatment.
- Indian Journal of Dermatology: "The Curious Cases of Burn by Fig Tree Leaves"
- Mayo Clinic: "Food allergy"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Latex Allergy"
- Clinical & Experimental Allergy: "Identification of Bet v 1-related allergens in fig and other Moraceae fruits"
- USDA: "Figs, raw"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet"
- UCLA Health: "What are phytochemicals? (And why should you eat more of them?)"
- American Heart Association: "Are figs good for you? Get the whole sweet story"
- Real Food Whole Life: "5-Minute Fig Smoothie"
- Eating Bird Food: "Fig Salad with Arugula and Goat Cheese"
- The Endless Meal: "Coconut Fig Squares"
- Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences: "Inhibitory effects of Ficus carica and Olea europaea on pro-inflammatory cytokines: A review"
- AAAAI: "Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS)"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.