Citrus Allergy

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A citrus allergy is an allergic reaction to citrus fruit, such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits. Most symptoms appear after eating or drinking something made with raw citrus fruit, but they can also occur by just touching the fruit. These symptoms include tingling and itching of the lips, tongue, and throat, reddening and mild swelling of the lips and gums, and contact dermatitis. In rare cases, a citrus allergy can cause anaphylaxis.

People who experience contact dermatitis after touching these fruits are most likely allergic to limonene, a chemical found in the peel of citrus fruit. Limonene is also found in some fragrances and other products, which may also cause an allergic reaction. Be sure to read the labels of products that may contain citrus ingredients.

Foods That Contain Citrus And Should Be Avoided

  • Grapefruit
  • Tangelos
  • Fruit Juices
  • Oranges
  • Clementines
  • Fruit Flavored Desserts
  • Lemons
  • Kumquat
  • Yogurt
  • Limes
  • Ugli Fruit
  • Fruit Juices

Diagnosing A Citrus Allergy

To diagnose a citrus allergy, an allergist will do either an elimination test or a provocation test, also known as a food challenge. During an allergy elimination test, the doctor will ask you to cut all citrus fruits from your diet for about two weeks. Then, the citrus fruits will slowly be introduced back into your diet to see if there are any changes. Keeping a food journal is helpful during the process.

During an allergy provocation test, you will be exposed to the allergen to see if it evokes an allergic reaction. This should only be done in a clinical setting with emergency equipment on hand. Your allergist will ask you to stay in the office to watch you for possible allergic reactions.

Citrus Allergy Treatment

There is no cure for citrus allergy, but there are ways to soothe your symptoms. The best way to reduce symptoms is avoidance. You should avoid all citrus fruits and products that may contain citrus.

For less severe allergies, over-the-counter allergy medications can reduce symptoms. Certain antihistamines, such as Zyrtec, can control itching of the lips. Cortisone creams are also useful for itching and other symptoms related to contact dermatitis.

For more severe allergies, you may need an epinephrine injection. Epinephrine treats symptoms related to anaphylaxis. An allergist can prescribe an Epipen or Auvi-Q injector for personal use. You should keep your Epipen with you in case you experience a severe allergic reaction.


If you experience symptoms related to citrus allergy, call the allergy specialists at NY Allergy & Sinus centers. We can help diagnose your allergy and create a personalized treatment plan for you. Call (212) 686-4448 for an appointment in Manhattan or (718) 416-0207 for an appointment in Queens. You can feel better today!