It’s not in your head — if you’ve ever eaten a fruit or vegetable and gotten strange tingling sensation in your mouth, you’re actually having an allergic reaction.
The allergy, called oral allergy syndrome, affects people who fall victim to seasonal allergies — the runny nose, sneezes and itchy eyes. It’s because raw fruits and vegetables contain similar proteins to the plant pollens that are making your springtime hell, according to the National Jewish Health Center.
People with seasonal allergies who also suffer from oral allergy syndrome typically experience itching or swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue or throat after eating the suspect fruit or vegetable. This is because the immune system actually confuses plant proteins with the pollens you’re allergic to.
“We call it cross-reactivity,” Dr. Carah Santos said in an interview with NPR. “Your immune system sees something as looking very similar to something it already reacts to.”
This time of year some of the biggest culprits for oral allergy syndrome flare ups are apples, oranges, kiwis, almonds, carrots, cherries and pears.
As summer hits, cantaloupe, watermelon and tomatoes are more likely to bother those with pollen allergies.
In the fall, cucumber, bananas, carrots, apples and celery will give the biggest problems, according to a National Jewish Health Center report.
The prevalence of oral allergy syndrome is unknown, but researchers who evaluated pollen-related food allergies in 2015 said pollen allergies are on the rise and with that will come more instances of oral allergy syndrome.
“Although epidemiologic data are scarce, there is no doubt that the increase in pollen allergies is going to be followed by an increase in the so-called pollen-related food allergies,” the study said.
Unfortunately there’s really no way around it other than the old-fashioned way — avoiding the raw foods that irritate your allergies. Oral antihistamines can also relieve mild symptoms.
The good news is that oral allergy syndrome usually only flares up when eating raw fruits or veggies, that means baking or cooking foods can degrade the proteins enough to eliminate the reaction. Canned foods also work, and for less-severe cases, peeling the fruit or vegetable can help to relieve symptoms.