When we start to describe a healthful diet, we always mention fruits and vegetables. But while most people can enjoy a big slice of watermelon on a summer afternoon, some absolutely cannot. Does fruit make your throat itch? That is a red flag for a specific type of allergy.
Bananas, Oranges or Watermelon Could Make Your Throat Itch:
Q. Help me! I can’t eat bananas, pineapple (unless it’s in a jar with its own juice), grapes, oranges and watermelon, just to name a few. My throat swells and itches extremely badly when I eat any fruit EXCEPT FOR POMEGRANATE. That’s one fruit I can eat and not have one single symptom from it. I have to carry an EpiPen around with me just in case. What is it that I’m allergic to exactly?
A. Doctors sometimes refer to your condition as “oral allergy syndrome” or OAS for short. Another name for this condition is pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS). Many fruits (and some tree nuts) contain proteins similar to plant pollens. In people with hay fever, these compounds can trigger severe allergic reactions.
Which Fruits Trigger OAS?
OAS can start as an itch in the mouth or a little tingle on the tongue or in the throat. The reaction can progress to life-threatening breathing problems.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, people who are allergic to birch pollen are most likely to react to fruits such as apples, almonds, carrots, celery, cherries, hazelnuts, kiwi, peaches, pears and plums. Grass pollen cross-reacts with celery, melons such as watermelon or cantaloupe, oranges, peaches and tomatoes. On the other hand, hay fever sufferers allergic to ragweed pollen are especially likely to have problems with banana, cucumber, melons, zucchini squash or sunflower seeds. In Japan, allergies to Japanese cedar are associated with oral allergy reactions to kiwi and pineapple (PLoS One, April 14, 2021). People who experience such symptoms should check in with an allergist for testing and guidance.
Cooking or processing such foods can break down the proteins that cause the reaction. That may explain why canned pineapple does not trigger your allergy.
You are wise to carry an epinephrine injector with you at all times. Your tactic of avoiding the fruits that make your throat itch is very smart. However, you never know when some food you eat could contain a protein that might trigger a severe allergic reaction.