Two questions that come up this time of year – year after year – are:
- What is Oral Allergy Syndrome?
- How do I manage Oral Allergy Syndrome?
OAS is something that’s not well known outside of the allergy community. It can be irritating, and for people experiencing it for the first time, kind of alarming.
Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) is a minor reaction to fresh fruits and vegetables – mouth, throat, and/or lip itching, congestion, minor stomach upset – during your problematic pollen season. Because compounds in certain fresh fruits and vegetables are similar to compounds on the surface of pollen grains, the body sometimes misreads the food as a threat, resulting in a minor allergic reaction.
For example, the compounds on the surface of an apple are similar to the compounds on the surface of birch pollen.
For someone who is allergic to birch, they may react with mouth itching when eating an apple during birch pollen allergy season.
So what can you do to steer clear of these additional symptoms? Avoidance, preparation, and treatment are key.
The simplest way to avoid an OAS reaction is to avoid the foods that cause your symptoms. Check out these common environmental allergens and the related foods that may cause OAS:
- Ragweed: cantaloupe, banana, cucumber, zucchini, lettuce
- Birch: apple, carrot, celery, potato, peach
- Grass: tomato, legumes, orange, grains, apple
Of course, not everyone with an environmental allergy experiences OAS, so only those experiencing symptoms need to avoid these foods.
If you’re itching for apples (literally!) during your pollen season but want to avoid the effects of OAS, cooking the fruit has shown to be an effective way to avoid symptoms. When cooked, the protein structure of the offending produce is broken down, so it no longer resembles the original protein arrangement. That allows your body to see it as the apple it is – not to be confused for pollen.
While avoiding and preparing the produce may be effective options, they’re not always realistic. Treating the underlying environmental allergy itself may be another great solution.
Taking antihistamines is a temporary treatment for seasonal allergies and OAS. This allergy medication blocks the body from releasing histamine, which is what causes symptoms associated with an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, relief from antihistamines is only temporary, and antihistamines will have to be taken each allergy season. Many allergy sufferers may also find the side effects of OTC meds don’t fit their lifestyle, so taking them might not always be possible.
Immunotherapy, allergy drops or allergy shots, treats the actual cause of the allergy and works to reduce or eliminate symptoms for good. With gradually increasing doses of treatment including the problematic allergen, the body learns to tolerate, rather than react to, allergens over time. Many people find that when they treat the cause of their underlying birch allergy, for example, their OAS symptoms from apples are reduced, too.
Custom allergy drops following the La Crosse Method™ Protocol can be a safe, affordable and portable treatment that can be taken wherever you are.