a woman with itchy lips looks at cherries she holds in her hands. She has a cherry stain on her blouse and she is surrounded by large angry fruits.

Why Does My Mouth Itch After Eating Fruits or Veggies?

Last updated: October 2020

Today I was chatting with a friend at work. She told me not only did she ruin her favorite blouse eating cherries, but now she thinks she's allergic to them. When I asked her what happened, she said that after she ate cherries (and dripped cherry juice on her favorite shirt), her throat swelled up and her lips tingled. Mmmhmm, that did sound like an allergic reaction.

"The big 8"

I told her that you can develop a new food allergy at anytime. Most people may have heard of "The Big 8." Those are the foods that cause 90% of allergic reactions. They are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy.1

They also can cause severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) which can lead to death. Symptoms of anaphylaxis are stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, rash, itchy mouth, mouth or tongue swelling, throat swelling, coughing and wheezing, difficulty breathing, dizziness or lightheaded, and loss of consciousness.1

But did you know that there are a lot of other random foods you can be allergic to?

Oral allergy syndrome

If you are allergic to certain trees, grass, or ragweed, you can be allergic to fruits and veggies that are in the same family (botanically related). It's called oral allergy syndrome (OAS), or pollen food allergy syndrome, and it's common during pollen season.2

How does it work?

Well, it's another "fun" part of allergies and asthma. The majority of us with asthma also have allergies. Usually, they are environmental allergies (pets, grass, trees, pollen, etc.) But, if you are:3

  • Allergic to birch? You can also be allergic to peaches, pears, apples, cherries, plums, kiwis, carrots, celery, potatoes, almonds, and hazelnuts.
  • Allergic to grass? You can also be allergic to melons, peaches, tomatoes and kiwis.
  • Allergic to ragweed? You can also be allergic to melons, bananas, cucumbers, zucchinis, chamomile, and echinacea.

Symptoms of oral allergy syndrome

How do you know if you are allergic to fruits and veggies? Is it like being allergic to the Big 8? Well, symptoms of oral allergy syndrome are:2,3

  • Swelling of the throat, tongue, mouth or lips
  • Hives on the mouth
  • Tingly or itchy mouth
  • Sore throat or scratchy throat

With oral allergy syndrome, most symptoms happen in the mouth. Once the food is swallowed or spit out, no treatment is needed.3

But can you have anaphylaxis like with the Big 8? Normally, no. But it can happen. Talk to an allergist to see if you should carry an epinephrine auto-injector (just in case).

Eating cooked vs raw fruits and veggies

And in another weird twist, you can eat the fruits or veggies cooked, but not raw. How is that possible? Because cooking distorts the proteins, so the immune system doesn't see it as the same food.2 So my friend can eat cherry pie, just not fresh cherries. (Hopefully she doesn't spill cherry pie on her favorite shirt!) If you are having a picnic this summer and munching on fresh fruit and veggies and suddenly get an itchy mouth, it could be oral allergy syndrome.

By the way - don't tell your kids about this or they'll be using it as an excuse to NOT eat their fruits and veggies!

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