Seasonal Allergies & Oral Allergy Syndrome
by Judi Epstein, MSN, ARNP
We live in an amazing bioregion. Spring is in full swing, and it’s almost summertime! The sun is shining on most days, the birds are singing, the pollinators are doing their job, and there is an abundant explosion of plant life. This time of year is when environmental allergies return – when nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, headache, wheezing, fatigue and flu-like symptoms can interfere with your daily quality of life.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, you may be suffering from Oral Allergy Syndrome, also known as OAS. This is a type of food allergy that may develop in people who also have environmental (inhalant) allergies. OAS can occur due to cross-reactivity between certain foods and tree and weed pollens. Exposure to pesticides or other contaminants may also trigger a strong reaction with reactive foods.
OAS can occur at any time of the year but symptoms are most prevalent during times of high pollen. As many as 1 in 3 seasonal allergy sufferers may experience OAS.
Oral Allergy Syndrome and Trigger Foods
OAS is characterized by a cluster of allergic reactions triggered by eating certain foods. In OAS, the body’s immune system produces antibodies against certain pollens that cross-react with foods with structurally similar proteins. Generally, symptoms occur within a few minutes of eating a trigger food, although delayed reactions are not unusual.
Common OAS reactions to food triggers may include an itching, tingling or burning sensation of the mouth, lips, tongue, throat, or ear canal. In some cases there may be swelling of the face, lips and tongue, tightness in the throat, wheezing or difficulty breathing. If the food trigger is not destroyed by normal stomach acids, gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, cramping or diarrhea may also develop.
Other potential reactions may include: itching, eczema, rash or hives on the skin; watering and discharge from the eyes; congestion, sneezing, runny nose, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting.
Severe allergic reactions can trigger anaphylaxis (a serious, whole-body allergic reaction) which can be life threatening. Anaphylactic symptoms may include constriction and tightening of airways, swelling of the throat, rapid pulse, severe drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness or shock. In such cases, it is crucial to seek immediate emergency medical treatment.
Diagnosis & Treatment of OAS
To diagnose OAS, a thorough patient intake is done to identify possible cross-reactive environmental and food triggers. An elimination diet or food immunology tests may be utilized to confirm the diagnosis.
Once the cross-reactive allergens are identified, an individualized treatment plan is created to address the root of the problem and relieve the symptoms that are affecting your quality of life.
- Alder Pollen: almonds, apples, strawberry, raspberry, celery, cherries, hazelnuts, peaches, pears, parsley.
- Birch Pollen: apples, peaches, pears, plums, apricots, nectarines, prunes, strawberries, avocado, bananas, carrots, celery, coriander, fennel, soy, wheat, buckwheat, honey, peppers, fig, kiwi, parsley, celery, cherries, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, raw potato, parsnip, dates.
- Ragweed Pollen: cucumber, zucchini, artichoke, dandelion, banana, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, sunflower seeds/oil, green pepper, hibiscus, chamomile, tomato, honey.
- Mugwort Pollen: celery, apple, kiwi, peanut, fennel, carrots, parsley, coriander, celery, peppers, some spices: anise seed, fennel seed, caraway seed, parsley, coriander.
- Grasses: tomato, celery, melon, oranges, peaches, dates.
- Natural Rubber Latex Allergy: banana, kiwi, avocado, tomato, potato, bell pepper, chestnut, peach, papaya. If your food is handled by a person wearing latex gloves, you may actually be reacting to cross contamination of latex particles in the food.
Additional food allergies on top of OAS symptoms may indicate a separate medical condition such as gluten intolerance, celiac, “leaky gut,” or others. Lab tests can be ordered to determine the cause of specific systemic imbalances, followed by a customized treatment plan to restore balance.
Whatever symptoms you are struggling with, I will work with you to determine the root cause of your seasonal allergies and create an individualized treatment plan to help you restore balance and health to your daily life.