Pollen Foods to Avoid This Season

Pollen Foods to Avoid This Season Feature Image
May 26, 2020

It’s always better to eat whole, natural foods rather than packaged foods; but sometimes, natural foods can do more harm than good. You could experience an allergic reaction to some fruits and vegetables. Oral allergy syndrome, also known as pollen-food allergy syndrome, is caused by cross-reacting allergens found in both pollen and raw fruits, vegetables, and some tree nuts. This means that foods closely related to pollen may cause allergy symptoms in individuals with pollen allergies

These symptoms include itchy mouth, scratchy throat, or swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat. In rare cases, anaphylaxis may occur. Though most symptoms are mild, you should avoid these pollen foods if you are allergic.

Tree Pollen Foods

The most common association of the pollen-food syndrome is with the birch tree. The foods below cause the majority of reactions. 

  • Apple
  • Almond
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Cherry
  • Hazelnut
  • Kiwi
  • Pear
  • Plum

While tree pollen foods are most likely to cause oral allergy syndrome, the proteins responsible for the reaction are sensitive to heat and to digestive enzymes. So, if you apply heat to raw fruits and vegetables, they will be less likely to cause a reaction. However, this does not apply to nuts. We recommend avoiding nuts that cause symptoms. 

Grass Pollen Foods

Foods associated with timothy and orchard grass are mostly like to trigger an allergic reaction. These foods include:

  • Celery
  • Melons
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Tomato

Reactions are more severe during summer when grass pollen is at its peak. Some melons, such as watermelons, also cross-react with ragweed. Many of the proteins are concentrated near the skin of fruits. So, it may help to remove the skin of grass pollen foods to minimize the risk of an oral reaction. 

Ragweed Pollen Foods

There are 17 types of ragweed that grow in the United States. So, you may or may not react to some of the associated foods depending on which type of ragweed you are sensitive to. Reactions to ragweed pollen foods are more severe during late summer-fall. 

  • Banana
  • Cucumber
  • Melons
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Zucchini

If you have a ragweed allergy but don’t experience allergy symptoms after eating the above foods, you can safely continue your diet.

When to Seek Help

Most reactions of oral allergy syndrome are not severe. Antihistamines should treat your symptoms. However, you should see one of our board-certified allergists if:

• Symptoms cause significant throat discomfort

• Symptoms get progressively worse

• Symptoms are caused by nuts

• You develop systemic reactions such as hives, vomiting, or difficulty breathing

We offer six allergy centers throughout NYC and personalized care for each of our patients. Call (212) 686-4448 to get started today!