Does your mouth or throat become itchy after eating fresh fruits or vegetables during the fall season? For some people, seasonal allergy symptoms may be made worse by consuming fresh fruits or vegetables due to "oral allergy syndrome" (OAS), according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

OAS is caused by allergens in the air such as ragweed, which begins to bloom around August 15. "The pollen released from ragweed is the airborne allergen primarily responsible for the onslaught of allergy symptoms in the fall," said Clifford W. Bassett, MD, FAAAAI. "For the 36 million people suffering from ragweed allergies, it is important to know about pollen-food syndrome, also known as oral allergy syndrome. The most frequent symptoms of OAS include itchiness, swelling and hives affecting the mouth, face/lip and throat area. If not properly managed, these symptoms can take a heavy toll on an allergy sufferer's quality of life," Bassett concluded.

Oral allergy syndrome may occur in up to one-third of individuals with seasonal allergies and results from a cross-reactivity between seasonal airborne pollen proteins (i.e. tree, grass, weed) with similar proteins that are found in various fresh fruits and vegetables. Common symptoms include itchiness, tingling and/or swelling of the mouth, tongue and throat, immediately after eating fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods. Individuals with ragweed pollen allergies might experience these symptoms when consuming foods such as:

- Banana
- Cucumber
- Melon
- Zucchini
- Sunflower seeds
- Chamomile tea
- Echinacea

Oral allergy syndrome is also common in people with birch tree pollen allergies. Foods that can trigger a reaction in people with this allergy include:

- Peach
- Apple
- Pear
- Cherry
- Carrot
- Hazelnut - Kiwi
- Almonds

Generally, if individuals with ragweed allergies experience any symptoms of OAS, they should avoid eating the foods listed above, especially during ragweed season. However, cooking the food will frequently reduce and/or eliminate a reaction, though this is not always the case. Sometimes, OAS can induce severe throat swelling or even a systemic reaction in a person who is highly allergic. If you have any food associated symptoms, see an allergist/immunologist for an appropriate evaluation, including diagnostic allergy tests which will determine whether or not you should avoid eating certain foods.

When to see an allergy/asthma specialist

According to the AAAAI's referral guidelines, patients should see an allergist/immunologist if they:

- Experience itchy mouth from raw fruits or vegetables
- Have limited their diet based upon perceived adverse reactions to foods or additives
- Have prolonged or severe symptoms of rhinitis
- Have nasal polyps
- Have co-existing conditions such as asthma or recurrent sinusitis
- Have symptoms interfering with quality of life and/or ability to function
- Have found medications to be ineffective or have had adverse reactions to medications
- Are a child with allergic rhinitis, because immunotherapy may potentially prevent the development of asthma

To find an allergist/immunologist in your area or to learn more about allergies and asthma, visit the AAAAI Web site at

The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Allergy/immunology specialists are pediatric or internal medicine physicians who have elected an additional two years of training to become specialized in the treatment of asthma, allergy and immunologic disease. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 6,500 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries. The AAAAI serves as an advocate to the public by providing educational information through its Web site at