What is Citrus Allergy?
Citrus allergy is caused when fruits such as orange, lemon, grapefruit and Clementine are eaten. Citrus allergy is marked by swelling and itching of the lips, hives on the skin, nausea and vomiting. However, most people confuse citrus allergy with citric acid intolerance. Citrus allergy is caused due to proteins present in the citrus fruit, while citrus acid intolerance is caused when you are unable to digest citric acid.
How Is Citrus Allergy Caused?
Citrus allergy is caused when the immune system mistakenly considers the proteins present in the citrus fruit as harmful. In the process of attacking the proteins, it releases histamine – which results in the allergic reaction.
Citrus allergy can result in symptoms such as hives, watery eyes, itching of mouth and lips, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and breathlessness. In rare cases, an allergy can lead to a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. To prevent anaphylaxis, an epinephrine should be administered immediately.
What is Citric Acid Intolerance?
Citric acid is present in many fruits and vegetables. It is also used as a preservative in many products. Lemon and grapefruit have a high amount of citric acid.
Citric acid intolerance is caused when your body is unable to digest citric acid. Rashes, eczema, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and constipation are some of the symptoms of citric acid intolerance.
Distinguishing Between Allergy and Intolerance:
An allergy can occur immediately after eating the food, while an intolerance can take time to show the symptoms. Only a small quantity of citrus is needed to trigger an allergy, but intolerance is based on the amount of food eaten.
Getting yourself tested with an allergist can help you to determine citrus allergy.
Tips to Prevent Citrus Allergy/Intolerance:
Avoidance of citrus fruits is the only way to avoid citrus allergy. Here are a few tips to avoid citrus allergy:
- Read the labels while shopping
- While eating out, inquire about the ingredients
- Beware of cross-contamination. Fruit cocktails can have citrus mixed in them
- Always carry an epinephrine injection to prevent anaphylaxis
Treatment for Citrus Fruit Allergy
If you get allergic symptoms to citrus fruits, consult a physician immediately. In rare cases, there may be an anaphylactic reaction, which can require hospitalization.
For mild symptoms, antihistamines can be given. In case of hives and skin rashes, topical creams and lotions with corticosteroids are used. For respiratory problems or asthma attacks, bronchodilators are recommended.
Avoiding citrus fruits altogether is a good option. If you do have to eat them, peel off the skin to reduce the chances of contracting an allergy. Also, freshly picked fruits can be better than ripe ones.