The People's Perspective on Medicine

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.

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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When I was 10 years old I played in a mango tree all afternoon with a friend. By the next day my eyes were swollen shut, I had a fever, and I had a horrible itch and rash wherever the sap from the mango fruit had touched my body. It took two weeks for it to clear up completely. I never touched a mango again in my life, even if it was peeled, until a few years ago, when I ate peeled chunks of delicious mango, and I had no reaction at all.

I’m not sure if these comments are meant to be only about Mango rashes or not. I have had a burning itch for 5 years caused by nerve damage from Shingles on my neck. At first I had relief from Solarcaine spray for sunburn because it has Lidocaine in it. After a few years of using this and other lidocaine products, I felt that my skin was acting like it had been burned and not helped anymore. I now avoid it as much as possible. I wish there were doctors who specialize in the treatment of this PHN. (Postherbetic Neuropathy)–not sure of the spelling.

Have had similar experience with eating cashews. Many years ago I bought some raw cashews, roasted them myself and got a horrible rash on my thighs, at first not having any idea what was causing it. It took about a month to get better. After similar trials of cashews and subsequent rashes, I finally figured it out. Now I can’t even eat the roasted ones. Later learned of their kin to poison oak and ivy, which breaks me out also. Didn’t know that about the mangoes but have never eaten one. Now I won’t.

I break out in a rash if I touch or peel mangoes. I can eat them, but I cannot let them touch my lips or I break out in a rash.

Another fruit with similar properties to mango is the south Asian fruit gandaria. It is looks like an apricot, but gives the same poison ivy rash that mango does.

People on blood thinners should be aware that mango can increase your INR to extremely high levels. Most doctors do not know this but a lot of research and trial and error proved this. There are many reports in the literature documenting this.

Is papaya related? Ive been told it is, and had a similar reaction to papaya.

My mom used to break out and her face swelled up if she even walked under a mango tree. Living in Florida, she had to be very careful! Since I’m allergic to many thngs and don’t even like the taste of mangos, it’s not hard for me to stay clear of them. Also knew a fellow who loved them and when he ate them had to open his mouth very wide and steer clear of his lips to take a piece.

I Trimmed my mango tree, and was sprayed with mango sap within 2hrs I had bad burns right down my face.

I had the same reactions you’ve described from urushiol oil but I was exposed while cutting down the vines of Morning Glory Flowers. I didn’t know the cause until spending hours on the web. The rash appeared within 24 hours and covered a large portion of my body. I was prescribed Prednisone, used Hydrocortisone Ointment, USP 1%, and Ranitidine (which is an acid reducer… suggested by Dr. not sure what the connection was) but the itching and rash cleared up very quickly. 50% in a day and 90% on day 2.

I had a similar experience with Morning Glories. The rash was intense. Likewise, a Prednisone regime was required to squelch the rash.

I ate mango many times before buying it and peeling and eating only to find severe allergy. Suffered for two weeks with benedryl and finally went to doctor and was out on prednisone. Happened to my friend a year later and I told her what it was. Many people are unaware. My kids know not to touch them for fear they will get reaction or pass it to me. I still eat it but will not peel it.

I live in South East Asia, Malaysia. I bought few mango way home. I had the same feeling after eating it. My body only had a minor itchy. Forget to share with you guys, our local traditional ways is to washes the mangoes and put in basket with salt water for 1or more hour. It will reduce the risks of getting allergy. thanks

I live in south Florida and have quite a few fruit trees in my yard. One of them is a mango tree, and this year it produced close to 100 mangos.
I have been taking them off the tree and eating some, while giving most away. Several weeks ago a slight rash started forming on my inner arm, it got worse over 5 – 6 days, so I went to the dermatologist. He said it was a plant reaction and gave me a prescription for hydrocortisone. I had to be the mangos. That was about a week ago, and the flare ups are still happening and the rash seems to be spreading.
The hydrocortisone helps, but not enough. I made a thick paste of baking soda, ground oatmeal, tea tree oil, lavender and water and keep it in the fridge. I use it when the flare ups are bad, and for me the calming is immediate (after leaving on for 5 – 10 minutes). The rash is definitely less red, the itching is gone and my skin is soft. The flare up will happen again at some point, but the relief is ahhhhh…..

I got mango rash 2 days ago and have been taking steroids, benedryl, and a topical analgesic gel called Tecnu. I also put Aloe Vera on to help cool my face where the rash is because it will get very hot, like a sunburn. I am trying everything and it just won’t clear up. How long will it last?

I have a mango tree in my yard and my mangoes are known around town as the best to be found. The first year the tree bore fruit, I was so happy I scooped them up in my arms. By that night the poison- ivy like rash began. I had no physiological reaction to eating the fruit. It’s the mango sap on the skin that’s the problem, not the fruit. Now I wear gloves when I get them and wash them immediately. Interestingly enough, my dogs like mangoes and have had no adverse reaction (NB: I do not give mangoes to my dogs. Sometimes they just get to them before I do).

My reaction to mangoes almost always takes 2 days to reach full effect and I have never been diagnosed by a doctor. By the time I got to the doctor, get scheduled for an allergy specialist, and go see them, my rash was mostly gone, leaving nothing for them to diagnose! I’m curious if you ever had your allergies addressed? It would just be awful to have to cut out an entire food group!

I am allergic to Mangoes, but have never been technically diagnosed. It took me years to figure out because my reaction is always about 2 days after I eat them. The first time I got a nasty, blistery rash around my mouth that crusted up and lasted for over 2 weeks. It was the same week as my 1st anniversary and the doctors thought I had herpes at first! The day before we left, they called and told me that is wasn’t that, but couldn’t tell me what it was… not a very romantic anniversary! I had the same thing happen a few times over the next several years. Because of the delayed reaction, doctor scheduling, and the fact I don’t eat mangoes often, it was more than 5 years before I figured it out. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had thought mangoes, but never really put much into it. Then mangoes went on sale… 3 for a $1…so I bought 9! After 3, I had a reaction and put 2 and 2 together. They gave me an prescription antihistamine cream that help clear it up. Obviously try Benadryl and get to the doctor. It might still take a while to clear up.
Mangoes and poison oak both belong to the cashew family. There is also something I just learned about called ‘latex fruit syndrome.” I am also mildly allergic to latex and fairly allergic to poison oak, which they also tried to diagnose as herpes at first..that God I had enough sense to get a 2nd opinion! Doctors don’t know as much they’d like to think they do!

More than 50 years ago, while my dad was stationed in Hawaii, I climbed the mango trees to pick mangos for mango chutney. And my eyes were swollen shut, my hands swollen to the point mt fingers touched, and I missed school for two weeks. The amazing thing to me was that the army drs did not know what was wrong, then 5 years ago, my sister told me about the delicious mangoes she bought in Mexico and just bit into them to eat them. She didn’t believe me, and her drs had no idea why she had the horrible rash. 50 years ago we had found someone who knew the poison ivy mango skin connection, but, obviously, it is not well known. I am glad to finally find the reference. No problems with other fruit skin other than the ivies.
I am glad to say that last week I finally gave up and put a Baggie over my hands, washed the mango well, from the store, and all was fine. I never would try it other than from a us store which cleans fruit.

As I sit here with my lips burning, red, itchy with small red bumps– I am so happy I found this forum. I am severely allergic to poison ivy (hospitalized multiple times as a kid). And I have a bad latex allergy. I found this out one Christmas cleaning up after a broken poinsettia plant (that milky sap, stay away if you have a latex allergy) Just walking into a party store makes my eyes swell and itch. Well, a few days ago I ate a mango off of the peel. I didn’t know about the connection. Now I am very uncomfortable – mouth, face are red and itchy and burning like crazy! Does anyone know how long the symptoms last? And what’s the best treatment?

Many years ago my son and I came down with a very bad case of conjunctivitis in both eyes. We had to stay in a dark room for several days, applying ointment to our oozing eyes. It was caused from unwashed eggs. We, I placed all vegetables, fruit and eggs in a sink of cold water with 1/4 cup of bleach, soaking for 20 mins. After rinsing well and drying them, I refrigerated them.
Each time I came home from the store, mkt or even the AF Base BX, I washed all vegetables, fruit, eggs etc. Even though we lived there 3 years, we never had any other health problem like conjunctivitis or ecoli, etc.
I still wash all my fruit and vegetables purchased in this country, because much of the Produce come from other countries ~ who are not as careful or do not have the regulations that we have in the USA.

Think rash came from sap from my mango tree. Must have put my hand on the side of my neck. Spread all around neck. Benadryl pills and cream did not help. Finally dermatologist gave me Temovate which is a strong cortisone cream. That and ice was all I was to use. Have had bouts of poison ivy in the past. No problem with the inside fruit or pit which I suck on to use what is left after I cut it up. And it gets all over my chin and hands! In the future, I will only use a mango that I have washed and cut myself. Can’t be sure someone else might get sap into the fruit!

That last bit you included about being careful about handling fruit (near Mangoes) in stores is very helpful. It’s been a recent practice for me to wash the outsides of fruit/veg such as cantaloupe, oranges, avocados, squash, etc. in hopes to prevent spreading any contamination from the knife to the inside. Hearing about (cantaloupe) E.coli & Salmonella outbreaks, for example, made me more cautious. I’ve always washed foods you can easily bite into such as apples, grapes, lettuce…., but never thought to wash the outsides of the foods with thick peels. Your advice is yet another good reason to wash the outside of ALL fruit/veg. Grow your own food, too, if possible! Thank you, SFW.

I got a rash under my eye chin and mouth just from it touching my other fruit. I knew that I was allergic and so I didn’t eat any but I did cut it up for an event wow being allergic to mangoes sucks because I love the way they taste :( if ur allergic to mangoes its not worth it to eat it anyways trust me.

I just learned something about myself. I sure wish I would have known this a year ago. A friend had shared some skinless cut pieces for me and I loved it. I bought one at the store and not really knowing how to peel or eat it right, I just cut it in fours, like a peach and scraped all the fleshy fruit of the skin with my teeth. I didn’t know any better. About 15 mins later my lips and chin were burning. I really didn’t know why. The next couple of days I started developing blisters on my lips. Completely covering my entire lips. They were itchy and swollen too. Giving no thought to the mango at all, I went to the store and bought medicated lip ointments, and anything I could find for lips, I was miserable! And looked like I had a horrible disease!!!
By day 4 of this I was racking my brain thinking “what in the world is this?? What did I do differently?” I then remembered the mango I so ravenously rubbed on my mouth days before so I googled it. Sure enough!!!, that’s what it was. I have always been highly allergic to poison ivy and oak. Kiwis make my throat swell. Also have a slight allergy to latex. I wish I would have known before. The reaction lasted 12 painful days.

Thanks for this info. Mangos HUH? I suspected maybe there’s a problem this morning. I have been drinking Mango juice late in the day for past 2wks. I don’t know why- cause I don’t especially care for mangoes in general and avoid them. For the past two weeks, I’ve been getting weird hard lumps, swelling and redness on my fingers and wrist joint where the cartilage is.
They fiercely itch, swell and finger gets red. My old asthma symptoms came back but worse- I wake with nasal passage blocked -not from drainage just physically swollen –air felt irritating to breath earlier especially through that side so I thought it was a cold coming on but it wasn’t. The lumps disappear in the daytime as did the asthma- nasal. I have Celiac disease and also reaction to excessive nightshades- itching all over, ears, nose etc, and large joint pain-I pinpointed to habenero sauce and milder reaction to other nightshades.
The celiac like problems today- came after only the juice this morning, so I was online to see if there might be “gluten” in the mango juice. I’m guessing, No….but I found hope I might be able to cure the other problems i wouldn’t have suspected were food related….thanks.

My daughter ate a mango. Peel included. Next day she got a rash around her mouth. The next day it spread all across her cheeks. Next day a couple patches on her leg, then neck, then shoulder and ear and forehead. 1 week later a rash is appearing on fingers. When will it stop? Been to Dr once not much help. Taking antihistamine.

My daughter ate a mango. Peel included. Next day she got a rash around her mouth. The next day it spread all across her cheeks. Next day a couple patches on her leg, then neck, then shoulder and ear and forehead. 1 week later a rash is appearing on fingers. When will it stop? Been to Dr once not much help. Taking antihistamine.

I had a mango and now today my whole face is swollen! Next time I think about eating a mango I will think twice!

My friend had exactly the same reaction as mentioned above!!!!
What did you do to: -alleviate the discomfort,
-cure the rash,
-eliminate this from your system?
Please share!
Thank you.

I’ve just realized it’s my love of juicy, sweet mangos that has my chin, lips (inside and out) all inside my mouth, down my throats and all around the outside of my lips broken out! BUT, interestingly, my hands are not affected at all! I’ll miss the precious fruit, but will not miss its affect at all!

How exactly was this diagnosed? Did you have an immediate reaction to the kiwi and watermelon and assumed you were allergic, or did a doctor tell you this? I’m curious because a holistic doctor told me that I am sensitive, or intolerant, to fruit, but I’d like to know if I have to go the rest of my life avoiding ALL fruit? Not all fruit is the same, so it seems to me there should be a way to narrow it down.

Basically I’ve known all my life that I’m very allergic to mangoes. Grew up in SW FL and we had a couple of mango trees in the yard. Actually, I love them and as long as someone else prepares them – no problem eating them. I will break out though if standing under a tree and dew or rain off of it falls on me. What I’ve always found ‘funny’/strange is that I’ve been in poison ivy, oak and sumac many times but have never had any reaction to them.
For those who are allergic to them – be careful handling/picking up fruit in stores that are right next to them. When people dig through the mangos looking for the one they want, will sometimes lay the mangoes on the fruit next to them and some of the sap can get on them. It’s happened to me more than once.

I discovered my allergy from mangoes about 15 years ago (and cashews years before that). The itchy reaction happened within a day and I quickly realized it was from the mango since that was the first time I ever tried it. I also soon learned that there was a connection between poison ivy & mangoes from a source I deemed reliable at the time (don’t recall the source).
I was told I need to avoid eating the fruit that had contact with the skin & seed, where the oil resides. As for cashews, avoid the raw, or unprocessed, ones. Reportedly, they need to be steamed, boiled, roasted, or toasted to eliminate the urushiol that’s found in poison ivy. I still don’t trust the processed ones considering I had a reaction from a supposed roasted batch.
I simply don’t eat mangoes or cashews and I try to avoid anything that might contain traces of them (juice blends, nut mixes). Fortunately, I haven’t had any reactions to bananas, avocados or pistachios which I eat every week… but those seem to be latex allergy-related which I do not have.

I originally submitted the mango comment/question and was very interested in the reply. Now I am afraid to eat prepared mango again since I had the reaction. I was also interested in the reference to bananas, kiwi, and avocado. Several times over 20 years ago I had a reaction several times, each worse than before, the last of which was a blister on my eyeball. I went to the eye doctor and was diagnosed with acute conjunctivitis. The only thing I could attribute to the reactions was possibly eating a banana. I had previously eaten bananas all my life.
I went to an allergist who said he could test me and still not know for sure, or I could eat a banana and take a Benedryl. Now I am afraid to eat another banana. I wonder if I got something from the banana peel on my hand and rubbed it into my eye. I have also tested negative for latex allergy since I had a rash on my face after going to the dentist. He said I had to find out about possible latex allergy due to medical procedure exposure. I know I am very sensitive to poison ivy/oak and always end up having to take prednisone or get a steroid injection.

I have had for years the same reaction to watermelon.

Mango same as pistachios and cashews all exist in the same plant family as poison ivy, hence accounts for the sudden rash outbreak you now are experiencing and describing. Mango skin and or seed is the culprit. Mango pickers often report coming down with same debilitating rash on their hands since the known compound urushiol held responsible for first causing the rash is contained and exists in mango skin.
Oddly, eating the soft fleshy part of fruit does not produce same result. When handling fresh unskinned mango, exercise the same level or degree of precaution as you would if you were walking around in a patch of poison ivy. Wash hands after touching the fruit immediately and thoroughly by using soap and lots of cold running water. Never try to consume or extract the soft fleshy fruit portion with the fruit skin still intact as it will cause you to experience another bout with the dreaded rash, only this time it will be much worse than before!

Interesting about the latex allergy. I have the skin reaction to Mangos, so don’t eat or touch them, but I also have a digestive intolerance for kiwi fruit, (as well as corn kernels, and watermelon and now lactose). Have been wondering what might be the connection?

My husband has this problem with fresh peaches. Is there anything in peaches that would cause a rash?

Cashew nuts, leather tanned abroad, particularly India, can also instigate this reaction. I have learned the hard way and I am a botanist.

MY mother reacts same way, but I usually just peel them for her, no problem that way.
I can eat all I want, until I get the runs!
I knew about the oil long time ago, so are cashews related, I swelled up once, watch out.

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