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Mango Skin Allergy Mimics Poison Ivy

Some people have a mango skin allergy that results in an itchy rash similar to poison ivy. That is because mango skin contains urushiol, the offending agent.
Mango Skin Allergy Mimics Poison Ivy
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What plants do you need to avoid? Most people are pretty savvy about staying away from poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac if they have ever developed a nasty rash associated with one of these. But what about a mango skin allergy? Did you know that it can create a similar type of rash to poison ivy?

Mango Skin Allergy Resulted in Rash:

Q. After eating prepared mangos over the holidays, I bought some to peel and slice myself. I even chewed on the seed. Bad mistake!

By the next day, I was itching under my chin. This became swelling around my mouth and beside one eye.

I looked on the Internet and found that mango is related to poison ivy. Apparently there is an oil in the skin that can trigger reactions. Why is this not more widely known? I would never have suspected.

A. The sap of the mango tree and the skin of its fruit contain urushiol, the same irritating chemical that causes reactions to poison ivy and poison oak. Most people who react with an itchy rash can still eat the fruit if it has been peeled for them. But some people react to eating mangos with serious allergic symptoms such as swelling of the lips, face and tongue and even anaphylaxis.

Another allergy that might cause problems is latex. People with latex allergy may react to foods like mangos, kiwis, bananas and avocados.

Mango Skin Allergy Mimics Poison Ivy:

Other readers have also suffered from this problem. Here is one such report:

Mystery Rash Resembles Mango Skin Allergy:

Q. I’ve got a bad reaction on my hand between my thumb and forefinger that I think resulted from pulling an unknown weed. It isn’t responding to my usual treatment, a concoction of tea tree oil, witch hazel and rosewater.

This is a crusty, itchy rash like a very severe case of mango poisoning I had several years ago. I fed my little dog mango, he loved it and gave me kisses on the side of my face. The resulting horrible rash kept me in my apartment for a week.

Now I don’t get within five feet of a mango, so that’s not the problem. But it is driving me nuts. Can you recommend a remedy? I don’t have insurance, so I’m hoping you’ll know of something natural, or at least over-the-counter.

A. People who are sensitive to mango may develop a similar rash when exposed to poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. Perhaps you were pulling one of these plants out of your yard.

We have heard from several readers that gentle swabbing with vodka can help relieve a poison ivy rash. Topical hydrocortisone cream (Cortaid, Cortizone, Dermolate, etc) can also help somewhat. Tecnu or Zanfel can be helpful, especially if applied prior to exposure.

For a mild case of poison ivy or a mosquito bite, one or two seconds under hot water can ease itching for hours. The water needs to be uncomfortable, but not hot enough to burn.

Mango May Trigger Dangerous Allergic Reaction:

People don’t eat poison ivy, but they do eat fresh, frozen and dried mangos. Although uncommon, mango allergy can lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening complication (Asia Pacific Allergy, April 2011). This needs to be treated as a medical emergency.

Revised 8/23/18

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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