dealing with new food allergy?
December 23, 2013 3:54 AM   Subscribe

I tried a new citrus fruit yesterday and had an allergic reaction. How wide of a range of citrus fruits do I need to avoid while I wait to see a doctor? (YANMD)

I came across oroblanco, which I'd never encountered before, so naturally I bought one to try it. Last night when I ate it I had an allergic reaction, not too serious, but unmistakable: tingling lips and tongue, swollen feeling in the throat. The symptoms went away after about 15 minutes. I've requested an appointment to see a doctor and have allergy tests done, but of course it's the holidays and who knows when I'll actually be able to get in. I've never had an allergic reaction to a food before, and I'm wondering how wide-ranging I need to be with avoiding foods. I've never had trouble with other citrus fruits before - and I had eaten oranges and lime juice within the last week - but does my reaction to this particular fruit mean that I should be avoiding all citrus fruits until I can talk to a doctor? Is there anything else I should be avoiding? Obviously YANMD but I'd appreciate any tips/best practices for dealing with this until my doctor can provide more specific help. Thanks!
posted by SymphonyNumberNine to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
Well I don't know much about allergies but I would at least start with avoiding pomelos and grapefruits since that's what it was bred from.
posted by brilliantine at 4:59 AM on December 23, 2013

That sounds like oral allergy syndrome. Could be triggered by pretty much anything. If you've never had it before, that's probably good.
posted by Slinga at 5:25 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have a firm belief - although entirely unsupported that this kind of "fruit" allergy - at least for myself is not related to the fruit itself, but something (perhaps a yeast or other microbe) commonly found on fruit...especially fruit which although still ripe has aged or aged near fruit which has gone bad.

I say this because I spontaneously developed a cantaloupe allergy several years ago - but it is off and on. And in many cases off usually means fruit from a more controlled and local source. I have since noticed this with other fruits as well from entirely different families. So it seems to be something more related to the supply chain than the nature of the fruit itself.

I have also experienced this with apples, eating one which was washed very thoroughly vs. just a quick wash dramatically reduced the itchy ear type reaction...

So as I said no real support, and perhaps I'm just fooling myself..YMMV
posted by NoDef at 6:06 AM on December 23, 2013

I have exactly that reaction to pineapple, which did eventually extend from fresh to canned to "shared a food surface with pineapple", but never to any related fruits, and never to a more severe reaction. (My dad and sisters have it too, but each to a different fruit not known for allergenic properties.) If you haven't had reactions to other citrus before, I'd really doubt that you'd have a much stronger reaction to other citrus in the near future. As brillantine mentions, maybe take a tiny test of grapefuits or pomelos before chowing down. I usually do that when presented with some interesting new tropical fruit.

When I mention it to new doctors during history-taking time, they say "Pineapple. Weird." and keep going; they've never mentioned going to an allergist over it, and I'd never considered going to one before.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:40 AM on December 23, 2013

If it were me, and I wanted to continue eating citrus fruits until I had it checked out, I would probably pick 3 or 4 of my favorite citrus fruits and walk/drive/transport myself near to an ER, urgent care clinic, etc. Try the fruit outside the facility. If you have no reaction there you go, a mild reaction you should probably avoid it until Dr's appt.--should you have a severe reaction (very doubtful ) a quick shot of epinephrine/adrenaline or epi-pen will set you straight. I imagine it was a unique reaction to the specific fruit you ate. As said, it could also be a contaminant on the specific fruit and will never happen again. I have had mild reactions( very rarely) such as this to some nuts and citrus fruits--never presented any real on going problem and I eat nuts and fruits without a second thought. Enjoy the Holidays
posted by rmhsinc at 7:11 AM on December 23, 2013

I'd bet on it being something on the fruit's surface: a pesticide, dirt, some pollen. If you can eat grapefruit and pomelo without problem, that's pretty indicative. The seeds have most of the reactivity potential in any case.
posted by kcm at 8:13 AM on December 23, 2013

Yes to oral allergy syndrome. This is actually an allergy to something else manifesting in a weird way (mine is a birch tree allergy that manifests as that awful tingly/itchy throat when I eat apples, carrots, kiwis, and peaches!) I have really severe allergies (carry around an epi pen, etc.), but I still eat apples and carrots and peaches, and in 27 years, my reaction has never escalated beyond an itchy throat. My allergist is fine with this, FWIW.

If the itching bothers you, cooking the fruit prevents the reaction. It breaks down something in the skin, or something. Peeling the fruit also helps.

(also, I hope you are seeing an allergist! There is a good chance your regular doctor won't know about oral allergy syndrome - mine sure didn't.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:18 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes to oral allergy syndrome. This is actually an allergy to something else manifesting in a weird way (mine is a birch tree allergy that manifests as that awful tingly/itchy throat when I eat apples, carrots, kiwis, and peaches!)

You're my birch oral allergy syndrome soulmate! Except it's a lot more foods for me, and I don't eat them because I can't tolerate the itchy throat ( think mine is on the more severe sde).

Cooking the fruit/vegetable breaks down the protein that is related to the birch allergy proteins (cross-reacting proteins), rendering it less harmful.

Oral allergy syndrome
(wikipedia link) relates to what plant pollens you are allergic to, and that's something you can find out by tracking symptoms during pollen season and the fruit reactions. It does sound like that's what you have, especially because the symptoms went away after 15 minutes. Oral allergy sydrome is not typically life threatening, so you might eat those things and just deal with the discomfort as goodbyewaffles does - however my throat started to close once when eating a carrot, so there are outliers and you might be one, and I am not a doctor.

Also agreed your regular doctor might not know what it is. Go to an allergist, changed my life!
posted by sweetkid at 9:07 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

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