September 26 is the day when we celebrate Johnny Appleseed—that famed American pioneer who devoted his life to raising up apple orchards in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. But don’t think you have to sit this one out just because you have apple allergies. There’s hope through a new treatment known as sublingual immunotherapy.
Most fruit allergies are really a result of Oral Allergy Syndrome. OAS occurs because of a close similarity in chemical makeup between fruit and veggie proteins and certain plant pollens.
Here are some common cross-reactivities:
- Birch Pollen: apples, almonds, cherries, pears, plums
- Grass Pollen: figs, watermelons, tomatoes, peaches, celery, melons
- Mugwort: carrots, celery, fennel
- Ragweed: bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, zucchini
Here’s how the cross-reactivities work:
If you happen to be allergic to birch tree pollens, your body may react with hay fever symptoms when the trees are pollinating. Additionally, if you eat an apple, which has proteins very similar in chemical composition to birch pollens, your body may react with OAS symptoms which include tingling, swelling, and reddening of the lips, mouth, and throat.
Thankfully, OAS is rarely severe. It usually flares up right after you eat the trigger fruit or vegetable and lingers for several minutes. It’s often irritating enough, though, that it causes people to stop eating the fruits and vegetables they love.
If you want to eat your apples (and other fruits and veggies) and feel good too, a treatment known as sublingual immunotherapy can help your body develop an immunity to the pollens/proteins that are making you miserable. That way, you can tolerate the foods you love and that you need to be healthy.