Your body’s immune system has the amazing ability to identify, categorize, and remember thousands of different substances. When it identifies a substance that causes allergies, such as tree pollen, it directs the body cells to create antibodies to the allergen and then floods the body with these antibodies if it encounters the allergen again. These antibodies cause your allergy symptoms, such as itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose.
A Case of Mistaken Identity
But what happens when the body mistakes a different substance for an allergen? That’s exactly what happens in Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). In OAS, the body mistakes the proteins found in some fresh or raw fruits and vegetables with the proteins found in some pollen. In the body’s defense, these proteins are extremely similar. Once the food protein is mistaken for an allergen protein, the body gets to work producing antibodies to fight it off. The result is similar symptoms to an allergy attack, with no actual allergen exposure. OAS usually causes symptoms only in the mouth and throat, but can rarely cause reactions in other body areas. The most frequent symptoms are itching and mild swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat.
The Main Culprits
So how do you find out if you’re susceptible to developing OAS? There are some pollen allergies that seem to cause the most issues, including birch and other tree pollen, mugwort, ragweed, Timothy grass, and orchard grass. If you have a confirmed allergy to one of these substances, then you might end up having an allergic reaction to certain raw fruits and vegetables. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology maintains a comprehensive list of all known OAS reaction combinations here.
There’s no specific treatment for OAS other than just avoiding the offending foods. However, implementing a professionally-developed treatment plan can lessen your sensitivity to the underlying allergen. In general, heating or cooking the fruit or vegetable will denature the protein causing the reaction and alleviate symptoms. Some people also report that peeling fruits and vegetables lessens the effects.
OAS Care in Tampa Bay
If you’ve noticed an allergic reaction after eating certain foods, call Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Associates of Tampa Bay at (813) 971-9743 to schedule an appointment. We can pinpoint the cause of your allergy symptoms and help you take charge with a regimen of medications, lifestyle tweaks, and expert medical guidance. Don’t let your allergies dictate where you go or what you do – take back control today with help from Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Associates of Tampa Bay.