Strawberries are a favorite fruit for many Americans. The United States produced an estimated 3 billion pounds of strawberries in 2014 alone. In many areas, strawberries are available all year round in local grocery stores.
Many other foods contain strawberries, and people who are allergic to these berries may also be allergic to other fruits from the same family of plants. While allergic reactions to strawberries tend to be mild, it is possible for people to have a life-threatening response.
In this article, we provide the information that people need to know if they suspect that they have a strawberry allergy.
Can people be allergic to strawberries?
Although it is rare, people can be allergic to strawberries.
It is possible to be allergic to strawberries, although this allergy is much less common than many other dietary allergies.
Having a strawberry allergy means that a person's immune system reacts badly to a specific protein that is present in this fruit.
Heating strawberries will distort the proteins in them, so some people with a strawberry allergy may be able to eat cooked strawberries.
Doctors do not know how common strawberry allergies are, but, according to a small-scale study conducted in Bosnia, Europe, only 3–4 percent of children aged 2 and under have this allergy. The percentage drops to 0.5–1 percent in late childhood.
Certain foods, including strawberries, citrus fruits, and tomatoes, can cause allergy-like symptoms without a person having a true allergy to them.
People who suspect that they may have a strawberry allergy can discuss their symptoms with a doctor and possibly have an allergy test for confirmation.
Symptoms of a strawberry allergy
When a person has a strawberry allergy, they are likely to experience only mild to moderate symptoms. These symptoms can occur within a few minutes or up to a few hours after eating or coming into contact with strawberries.
The most common symptoms of a strawberry allergy include:
- itching and inflammation of the throat and mouth
- itchy skin
- coughing and wheezing
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- a feeling of tightness in the throat
On rare occasions, strawberries can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. The symptoms of anaphylaxis are severe and can include:
- a rapid pulse rate
- a swollen tongue
- a swollen throat that blocks the airway
- a substantial drop in blood pressure
- dizziness and lightheadedness
It is vital to get immediate medical care for anyone showing signs of anaphylaxis. People with a severe allergy should always carry an EpiPen, which is an injectable medication that counteracts a severe allergic reaction.
Treating and managing a strawberry allergy
Check the labels on foods to ensure that they do not contain strawberries.
In most cases, people can treat allergic reactions to strawberries at home with no medical intervention.
The best treatment for an allergy is to avoid the allergen altogether. For people with a strawberry allergy, this means avoiding:
- fresh strawberries
- dried strawberries
- jams that contain strawberries
- strawberry jellies
- strawberry candies
Always check the labels on foods to make sure that they do not contain strawberries.
People can often treat mild reactions at home using over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines. Antihistamines will stop the immune system from overreacting to the strawberries and will help prevent the symptoms or reduce their severity.
However, if this is the first time that someone is experiencing an allergic reaction, they should speak to their doctor for advice on symptom management and possible treatment options.
For severe reactions, people need emergency medical attention. Anyone with a known severe allergy should carry an EpiPen at all times in case of accidental exposure to an allergen.
People have a higher risk of food allergies if they have the following:
Young children may have a higher risk of developing an allergy to a particular food if they do not get exposure to it early in life. The introduction of some foods, such as strawberries, later in life can sometimes trigger an allergic reaction.
When to see a doctor
People should see a doctor after their first allergic reaction to strawberries and stop eating this fruit immediately. It is also essential not to feed strawberries to children who have an allergic reaction after consuming or coming into contact with the fruit.
During the visit, the doctor will ask the person questions about their symptoms and medical history to rule out other factors and causes.
They may also perform one or more tests to determine whether or not strawberries are the cause of the symptoms. Typical tests include:
- blood tests
- skin prick tests
- an elimination test, in which people avoid the food and see if their symptoms improve
Doctors should reevaluate the person for the allergy every few years. Some people will outgrow their allergy.
What to avoid if you have a strawberry allergy
People with a strawberry allergy may also react to raspberries and blackberries.
A person who is allergic to strawberries may find that they have issues with other potential allergens.
Strawberries belong to the Rosaceae family of fruit. People with a strawberry allergy may need to avoid other fruits from this family, which include:
People with a strawberry allergy may also react to:
- birch pollen
- some nuts, such as hazelnuts
Strawberry allergies are relatively uncommon and tend to cause only a mild or moderate reaction.
However, some people may develop a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that requires emergency medical attention.
In some cases, it is possible to outgrow an allergy. For people who do not, the best treatment is to avoid the fruit and other fruits from the same family.