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Allergy to Fruit and Vegetables

Allergy to fruits and vegetables is relatively uncommon, compared to other food allergies such as cow’s milk, egg and nuts. Symptoms usually develop within minutes of the exposure, but occasionally can take up to 1-2 hours. The most common groups of fruits or vegetables causing reactions are:

  • Members of the rosaceae family: apple, pear, cherry, peach, and plum
  • Members of the cucurbitaceae family: cucumber, melon, watermelon, zucchini, pumpkin
  • Kiwi fruit is also a common cause of allergic reactions, and may result in more severe reactions than other fruits. Some people with allergy to kiwi fruit also react to banana, avocado and latex, due to cross-reactivity in the protein which causes the allergy.

Many fruit allergies are due to proteins called profilins, which are often found in trees, grass and weed pollens as well as many fruits and vegetables. Around one third of pollen allergies are due to profilins, and people with hayfever to profilins may find that they experience symptoms after eating melon, watermelon, citrus fruits, tomato, and banana.

Fruit and vegetable allergy is generally more common in older children and young adults. Although there is limited research into this type of allergy, most people with a fruit or vegetable allergy tend to continue to be allergic as they grow older. The one exception is potato allergy in young children, which tends to resolve with time.

Legumes

Legumes include peanut, soybean, fresh or dried bean seeds, pea, green beans and lentils. These foods all belong to a plant family called Leguminosae. Most people allergic to one legume are not allergic to other types of legume, although about 1 in 20 people with legume allergy can be allergic to another type.

Legumes are derived from plants, and sometimes a person with a legume allergy can also demonstrate sensitivity to some fruits and vegetables. However, most patients with legume sensitivity can eat all types of fruit and vegetables.

What is oral allergy syndrome?

Oral allergy syndrome occurs where some sensitive people develop hayfever-like symptoms in their mouth, after exposure to the food. The symptoms typically include itch, tingling, swelling of lips, palate, and tongue, and usually occur within minutes after contact with the fruit or vegetable. Symptoms are much more likely to occur after exposure to the fresh food, rather than the cooked fruit or vegetable. It is very rare for a person to get more generalised symptoms.

Allergic reactions due to oral allergy syndrome can occur at any time of the year, but are often worse in the pollen season. These patients are often allergic to a large number of foods. The syndrome usually occurs in older children and adults and is generally life long.

For information on oral allergy syndrome, see our separate factsheet.

 

Last updated: March 2012

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