What Is OAS?

Peaches, melons, corn, cherries and cucumbers are hands down some of the seasonal fruits and vegetables that we look forward to eating during summer. While these summertime favorites are enjoyable for most, others may experience itchiness of the mouth or other discomforts after consuming them. This reaction may be due to a condition known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS).

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, OAS is defined as “a form of contact allergy reaction that occurs upon contact of the mouth and throat with raw fruits or vegetables.”   This happens because your body is unable to tell the difference between proteins in these foods and pollen. “The immune system recognizes the pollen and similar proteins in the food and directs an allergic response to it,” states the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.  Therefore if a person is allergic to pollen there is a chance they can develop OAS.

Most cases of OAS are attributed to an allergy to birch pollen. Those who are allergic to birch pollen may experience symptoms when eating fruits or vegetables such as cherries, zucchini, peaches and plums.  Allergies to other types of pollen from grass or ragweed may trigger a reaction when consuming produce such as melons, cucumbers or bananas.

Symptoms of OAS are typically mild and last for only a few minutes; they may include:

  • Itching
  • Tingling
  • Redness
  • Mild swelling of the lips or tongue
  • Irritation of the throat and gums

In most cases these symptoms do not need treatment as they resolve in minutes.  Avoidance of trigger foods is highly recommended; however, if you must have a fruit or vegetable, consider peeling or cooking it to potentially lessen the reaction.  These recommendations may not work for everyone because each person’s tolerance is different.

OAS is diagnosed by an allergy specialist who will conduct an evaluation.  The specialist may recommend skin testing to pollens or other allergens that may be causing your symptoms.  It is also possible that your allergy specialist will ask you to eat certain foods while observing your reaction; this is called a food challenge.

It is important to keep in mind that OAS is a cross reaction to pollen rather than an allergic reaction to the actual fruit itself. The symptoms of a true food allergy can be more severe and can lead to anaphylaxis. The following symptoms should not be ignored and receive medical attention immediately:

  • Vomiting or stomach cramps
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hives
  • Shock
  • Tightness of the throat or trouble swallowing
  • Dizziness

The Division of Allergy and Immunology at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center focuses on the diagnosis and long-term treatment of allergic and immunologic conditions. To speak with an Allergy Specialist at Jamaica Hospital about OAS or food allergies, please call 718-206-6742

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Food Allergy Action Month

 

Allergenic food isolated on white

May has been designated as Food Allergy Action Month in an effort to educate Americans about food allergies and to support those who suffer from them.

Recent surveys indicate that 15 million Americans now suffer from food allergies. This number indicates that food allergies are much more common than previously believed and the number of people with allergies is steadily growing. It is now estimated that one out of every 13 children has a food allergy.

An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies a food component as a hazardous substance and attacks it. The effects of food allergies may appear on the skin, in the respiratory passage, or in the gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms of food allergies may vary from mild to severe, and in extreme cases, they can even be fatal.

Minor reactions include:

  • Skin rash
  • Eczema
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea

Serious Reactions Include:

  • Obstructive inflammation of the tongue and respiratory tract
  • Panting and wheezing
  • Lack of oxygen, leading to blue lips
  • Unconsciousness
  • Drop in pulse rate

Anaphylaxis is a very serious allergic reaction that can cause death. This type of allergic reaction requires immediate action and medical attention. If you or a loved one has a severe food allergy, you must be prepared for an emergency. Learn the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and know what the emergency care plan is. It may include the administration of epinephrine, a life-saving drug.

Over 170 different foods have been reported to cause an allergic reaction, but the food products that cause the most reactions are:

  • Soy
  • Milk
  • Fish / Shellfish
  • Peanuts / Tree Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Wheat

There is currently no cure for food allergies. To prevent an allergic reaction, it is important for the person with the allergy to stay away from foods that cause symptoms. Contact with even the smallest amounts of the allergen can cause serious problems. To avoid an allergic reaction, take the following precautions:

  • Learn to carefully read food labels and ask about ingredients in prepared foods
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after touching food
  • Use clean, uncontaminated utensils when preparing foods
  • Educate others about food allergies.

Every year in the United States, approximately 30,000 individuals are brought to hospital Emergency Departments and 150 people die due to severe allergic reactions. Jamaica Hospital joins the effort to raise awareness about food allergies and urges everyone to learn more about this growing, yet manageable issue.

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All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.