Pollen Allergies May Signal Food Sensitivities

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - About a third of the people who get stuffy heads and watery eyes from the pollen in the air may also react to certain fresh fruit and vegetables.

Dr. Saakwa Mante, an allergist at Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Clinic, says it's called Oral Allergy Syndrome. Symptoms include an itchy mouth and irritation or swelling of the lips. The symptoms usually come on within minutes of eating the suspect food and are generally mild, though they can come on as long as an hour later and, in rare cases, be more severe.

The foods people react to are based on the seasonal allergy. For example, people allergic to the ragweed in the air during late summer and early fall may be sensitive to bananas, cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, cucumber and zucchini. Dr. Mante says certain proteins in the ragweed pollen which are similar to proteins in these foods.

As for other seasons, those allergic to birch tree pollen in early spring, should be careful of peaches, apples, pear, kiwi, plum, fennel, parsley, celery, cherry, carrots, almonds and walnuts. Those who react to late-spring grasses might find melons, oranges and tomatoes are culprits.

The food reactions aren't limited to just the allergy season. Dr. Mante says people may notice the symptoms are more pronounced during the season, but it's really all year round.

The good news is, for most people, the symptoms of oral allergy syndrome don't require medication and don't hang around like the pollen. Dr. Mante says the best thing for most people to do is simply avoid the offending food.

Dr. Mante also cautions that oral allergy syndrome is different than nut allergies. Nut allergies, he says, often can lead to much more serious reactions.

In addition to the seasonal allergies, those with year-round latex allergies might notice sensitivity to banana, avocado, kiwi, chestnut and papaya.

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