Allergy season is in full bloom, and if you’re sensitive to pollen you’re probably dealing with a stuffy nose and irritated eyes. But you may be experiencing a new symptom: an itchy, tingling feeling in your mouth after eating fruit or veggies.
It’s called oral allergy syndrome, and often shows up suddenly in people who are allergic to plant pollens. It happens when your immune system gets confused and mistakes the proteins in some fruits and vegetables to pollen.
You can become “allergic” to foods that you’ve eaten for years with no problems. Usually the symptoms are mild: a tingly, itchy teeth, tongue and throat. You may also experience swelling of the lips, face and tongue.
People with seasonal allergies will often notice their oral allergy syndrome gets more pronounced during the times when pollen levels are high, which is how doctors typically diagnose the syndrome. That said, symptoms can occur at any time of year. There is no test for oral allergy syndrome.
What Foods Trigger Oral Allergy Syndrome?
If you’re allergic to birch pollen, you’re very likely to experience oral allergy syndrome. Birch pollen contains a protein that is similar to an assortment of proteins present in various fruits and nuts. About 50%-75% of people who have birch allergies will have oral allergy syndrome symptoms.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) notes that specific fruits and vegetables are associated with triggering the syndrome in people who are allergic to particular pollens. For example, if you are allergic to birch tree pollen, fruits with pits (like apples, cherries, plums, etc.) or carrots can cause oral symptoms. Nuts such as peanuts, almond, and hazelnut may cause mouth itching in those with birch pollen allergy.
People with allergies to grasses may have a reaction to peaches, celery, tomatoes, melons (cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew) and oranges. Those with reactions to ragweed might have symptoms when eating foods such as banana, cucumber, melon, and zucchini.
The Mayo Clinic has a helpful chart that correlates foods with pollen allergies.
How Can I Treat Oral Allergy Syndrome?
People with oral allergy syndrome can deal with the issue by simply avoiding the foods that they react to. But if you don’t want to give up your favorite fruit, try peeling or cooking the fruits and vegetables before eating them. Removing peels or cooking changes the proteins just enough that they aren’t recognized as pollen by your crazy immune system.
Oral antihistamines that help you control your pollen allergy symptoms can also help. But talk to your healthcare provider. Oral allergy symptom is typically just an annoyance, but in a small number of cases (less than 2%) it can spark a severe allergic reaction that can require emergency treatment.
Herbs, seeds, and nuts can trigger oral allergy syndrome too. But if you notice that nuts are causing symptoms, do check in with your doctor. You may be developing an actual allergy to nuts, which can create a serious health issue.
The AAAAI also suggests you see your doctor if:
- Your OAS symptoms are causing significant throat discomfort
- Your OAS symptoms are getting progressively worse
- Your OAS symptoms are caused by cooked fruits and vegetables
- You develop systemic reactions after eating raw fruits or vegetables such as hives, vomiting or difficulty breathing
If you experience any of the below, get medical help immediately:
- Constriction of airways that makes it difficult to breathe
- Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Other Causes of Tingling Teeth
If allergies aren’t the problem, your tooth sensitivity can be caused by numerous oral health issues, including eroded dental enamel, gum disease, damage from tooth grinding, or a chipped or fractured tooth.
If you’ve been putting off getting the dental care you need due to budget concerns, consider a dental savings plan. You can reduce the cost of dental treatment by 20%-60% with a plan, and some plans include savings on fitness and nutrition services, as well as vision and hearing care and discounts on prescription medications. To find out more about dental savings plans, visit dentalplans.com or call 844-239-7928.