Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome

Pollen can be responsible for a type of food allergy called Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome, also known as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). The syndrome is caused by a cross-reaction of allergens that are found in both pollen and raw fruits, vegetables, or some tree nuts, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.(1)

Generally, people affected by OAS can eat the same fruits or vegetables when they are cooked because the heating process distorts the proteins in the fruits or vegetables and the immune system no longer recognizes the food.(1)

The symptoms of OAS include itchiness and/or swelling of the mouth, face, lip, tongue, and throat. Generally, the symptoms appear right after eating, and are confined to that area of the body, and subside quickly. Rarely, anaphylaxis can develop.(2)

Allergies to birch, alder, ragweed, Timothy grass and grass pollen cause most OAS symptoms, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. OAS symptoms may be worse when pollen peaks.(3) The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America lists these cross reactions:

Birch Tree Pollen Cross-Reactions

  • Almond
  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Cherry
  • Hazelnut
  • Kiwi
  • Parsley
  • Peach
  • Peanut
  • Pear
  • Plum
  • Soybean

Alder Tree Pollen Cross-Reactions

  • Almond
  • Apple
  • Celery
  • Cherry
  • Hazelnut
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Parsley

Ragweed Pollen Cross-Reactions

  • Banana
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cucumber
  • Honeydew
  • Watermelon
  • White potato
  • Zucchini

Mugwort Weed Pollen Cross-Reactions

  • Aniseed
  • Bell pepper
  • Black pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Caraway
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Coriander
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Parsley

Timothy and Orchard Grass Pollen Cross-Reactions

  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Tomato
  • Watermelon
  • White Potato

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(1) American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome, https://www.aaaai.org/Tools-for-the-Public/

(2) American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Oral Allergy Syndrome, reviewed by Moore, A. M.D., https://www.aaaai.org/Tools-for-the-Public/

(3) Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 7 Things You Should Know About Oral Allergy Syndrome, https://community.aafa.org/blog/