Fig Allergies: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

The sap of the fig tree can cause an allergic reaction.
Image Credit: alicjane/iStock/GettyImages

Figs are a delicious and nutritious fruit. But for some, this sweet summer snack may cause a reaction if you have a fig allergy.

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Here's everything you need to know about allergic reactions to figs, including what causes them and how to deal with it.

Tip

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 to treat it.

Causes of a Fig Allergy

There are a number of reasons why you may be allergic to figs. Here's the breakdown of how the fruit (and it's tree) can cause an allergic reaction and why:

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1. Fig Food Allergy

Though figs aren't one of the major food allergens, it's certainly possible that you can be allergic to figs.

Food allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to a certain food (or an ingredient in the food) and releases chemicals that trigger an allergic reaction, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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2. Fig Tree Allergy

It's more common, though, to have an allergy to the leaf and root sap of the fig tree, according to January 2019 research in the ​Indian Journal of Dermatology​.

The sap contains compounds called furocoumarins, which can cause an irritating condition called phytophotodermatitis if they make contact with your skin (more on that in a moment).

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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 experience an allergic reaction from certain fruits, including figs.

Other Foods to Avoid if You Have a Latex Allergy

Per the Cleveland Clinic, the following foods are more likely to cause a reaction if you have a latex allergy:

  • Fruits like apples, bananas, avocados, peaches, nectarines, kiwi, melon, papayas and tomatoes
  • Vegetables like potatoes, celery and carrots
  • Chestnuts

Fig Allergy Symptoms

If you have a food allergy to figs, you may experience the following symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic:

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  • Tingly or itchy mouth
  • Skin rashes like hives or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat
  • Congestion
  • 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:

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  • Burning sensation
  • Pain
  • Itchy, red rash
  • Edema

Warning

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, visit 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.

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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.

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Cross Allergies

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.

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:

  • Mulberry
  • Jackfruit
  • Hazelnut
  • 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.

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references

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.