Fruit Allergy

Fruit Allergy is essentially a type of food allergy. It makes up about 10% of all food related allergies. Food allergies affect 3-4% of adults and 6% of young children in the United States. Allergic reactions to fruits are generally not severe and appear mostly in the mouth, lips and oral cavity. The group of symptoms taken together are known as Oral Allergy Syndrome.

Sometimes fruits and vegetables bear traces of tree pollen. So it is likely that anybody with a hypersensitivity to any fruit will also have pollen allergy. For example anybody sensitive to the pollen of ragweed would also most likely be allergic to banana, cucumber, honey dew, water melon and cantaloupe.


Causes of Fruit Allergy

In allergic individuals, the body perceives the otherwise harmless protein in a fruit as a threat and sets itself in an auto immune mode. The body reacts to the protein by producing antibodies known as IgE antibodies. These antibodies react and bind with the protein causing the body to release a chemical. This chemical released by the mast cells of the skin, gut and pharynx is known as Histamine. Histamine causes the adverse allergic reactions in the body. It irritates nerve endings and dilates blood vessels causing inflammation.

Symptoms of hypersensitivity

  • Symptoms appear within a few minutes of bringing it in touch with the lips and mouth.
  • Itching, irritation and burning sensation in the lips, mouth, ear canal, throat and pharynx.
  • Runny nose and watery eyes.
  • Blisters and skin rashes around the lips.
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue and mouth.
  • Tight chestedness and shortness of breath.
  • Respiratory distress with inflammation blocking airways.
  • Associated wheezing can bring about anaphylaxis in extreme situations.
  • Low blood pressure may be accompanied with respiratory distress.
  • If the allergen is ingested and not destroyed by the gastric juices it could cause digestive problems like diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and pain.
  • Skin rashes in the form of red itchy welts appearing in clusters with defined borders as in hives and urticaria.

Diagnosis of the hypersensitivity

Allergy tests are generally conducted to detect and isolate the allergen. The different tests are as follows:

  • Skin Prick Test:

    The skin is pricked and the allergen is introduced inside the skin through the prick. If reactions develop within 24 hours then the sensitivity is confirmed.

  • Patch Test:

    The suspected allergen is patched up against the skin for a good 24 hours. If reactions develop then allergy is confirmed.

  • Blood Test:

    If the specific antibodies related to the allergy is found in the blood sample then it is confirmed.

Treatment of the hypersensitivity

  • Eliminating the fruit causing allergy is the best possible treatment.
  • Antihistamines can be used to treat the reactions very effectively.
  • Decongestants and a combination of anti histamine and decongestant can also provide good relief. However, decongestants cannot be used for longer duration.
  • Corticosteroids can be used to treat inflammation and related distress.
  • Skin rashes are mostly treated with atopical ointments.
  • In a state of anaphylaxis, an emergency shot of epinephrine needs to be administered.

Prevention of Fruit Allergy

  • Very often cooking and processing fruit makes it less reactive except for celery and strawberries.
  • Pasteurizing fruit juice can render it safe for consumption for allergic individuals.
  • Eating raw fruits and vegetables may call for more severe reactions.
  • Removing the skin of the fruit can also be helpful.
  • Putting the fruit in the microwave for 30 seconds can be a good idea. It could alter the protein and make reactions milder.
  • Cutting the fruit and letting it sit can set in oxidation and decrease its potency.
  • Very ripe fruits, especially the ones which get riper sitting in the fruit basket can cause more problems than the fresh tree picked ones.
  • It is important to read labels well to make sure that it is not present in anything that is being eaten.
  • Allergy shots or immunotherapy can be used to vaccinate oneself. The same allergen causing the allergy is introduced in large amounts in the body to induce immunological tolerance.