Some people experience allergy symptoms in their mouth when they eat certain raw foods. Most likely, they suffer from oral allergy syndrome. Oral allergy syndrome is quite common among people who have seasonal allergies. The immune system mistakes certain proteins in the raw food for pollens, resulting in an allergic reaction with symptoms that manifest in the mouth.
Oral allergy syndrome is also known as pollen-food allergy syndrome. It may seem strange that the body could confuse pollens with proteins in fruits and vegetables, but certain ones are stunningly similar. For example, the chemical makeup of birch pollen bears such a strong resemblance to that of apple protein that the body, in some cases, can’t differentiate between them.
Some foods will solicit less of a reaction when they are cooked or heated. That is why a person may react to a slice of raw apple but tolerate applesauce well. The reason for this is that the molecular structure of protein changes during heating, rendering it less allergenic.
Here are some common pollens and associated foods that may trigger oral allergy symptoms:
- Grass pollen has cross-reactivity with oranges, tomatoes, melons, celery, and peaches.
- Birch pollen has cross-reactivity with pears, peaches, cherries, kiwis, apples almonds, hazelnuts, carrots, and celery.
- Ragweed pollen has cross-reactivity with bananas, cucumbers, melons, sunflower seeds, and zucchini.
Oral allergy syndrome symptoms include:
- Itchy mouth
- Scratchy throat
- Mild swelling of lips, mouth, throat, and tongue
- Itchy ears
These symptoms can be avoided by not eating raw foods that are known to be allergenic. Find out which foods are associated with your pollen allergy and avoid eating them in uncooked form. Consult your doctor if you suspect that you have oral allergy syndrome.