As an adamant lover of all fruits, stumbling upon this Reddit thread that chronicles the strange case of someone who, after 38 years of peacefully enjoying fruit, abruptly developed an allergy to them, summoned fear deep within my heart. Hold onto your beloved fruits tightly as I recite their daunting tale [sic throughout]:
“I am 38 years old and have, until recently, been fine with everything — no serious allergies to anything. I have a little seasonal allergy to pollens when the count is astronomical, but nothing that a little Zyrtec can’t handle. Lately, however, I can’t eat apples, pears, plums, peaches, carrots and other hard(ish) fruits and veggies raw. Cooked is fine — not a problem, but biting into an apple causes my lips to tingle and swell, and my throat starts to feel like it’s constricting. I’ve tried organic fruits, washing the fruits, eating apples from local producers, rather than ones shipped from Chile or wherever, and it makes very little (if any) difference.”
Making matters worse, this person refuses to check in with an allergist [sic, again, throughout]:
“I’m loathe to go to an allergy specialist, as when my wife went there last, the allergist convinced her that she was allergic to gluten, eggs, milk, nuts, tomatoes, potatoes and processed sugars. Now, our family subsists entirely on kale, grilled chicken and rice. I’m not going down that road. Has anyone else had similar symptoms of late-onset allergy (or sensitivity) to raw fruits, which doesn’t show up when the very same fruits are cooked?”
The top two comments insist that this person is suffering from oral allergy syndrome, which is an allergic reaction to plant pollens — and as it happens, the proteins found in some fruits and vegetables are quite similar to those found in certain plant pollens, which sometimes causes the immune system to mistake these proteins for the plant pollens that cause the allergy.
Fortunately, the allergic reactions linked to oral allergy syndrome are usually mild. “It’s unlike the childhood onset peanut allergy: You don’t get the life-threatening anaphylaxis and sudden catastrophic drop to blood pressure,” allergist and immunologist Eric Macy explains. “It’s more annoying. It’s kind of like if you were a cat-allergic person, and you licked a cat.”
Fortunately for the redditor mentioned above, this means that they can still enjoy the fruits and vegetables that trigger their oral allergy syndrome under the right circumstances. “If you control your upper-airway mast cells by using a nasal steroid, which will also tend to block the mast cells in your throat, and take a little antihistamine, maybe you can tolerate the food,” Macy says.
Alternatively, as the same redditor explained, you can cook the fruits and vegetables to degrade the proteins that cause the reaction, or you can peel the food, since most of said protein is concentrated in the skin.
As for why people like this unfortunate redditor sometimes develop oral allergy syndrome at any random moment in time, there’s apparently no real good answer. “I don’t think that’s really understood at any molecular level,” Macy explains. “Is it a matter of you being around more pollen, so you’re more sensitized? Or maybe you had a little alcohol, so your mast cells are a little more activated. Various things can trigger it.”
All of which means, from now on, I’ll be carrying a small medicine bag every time I binge eat my way through the produce section.