Can I Eat It: Honeydew or Honey Don't edition
July 14, 2015 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Deliciously ripe honeydew made my throat scratchy. Never been allergic before. Can I eat this?

I bought a whole honeydew melon from Costco on Friday, it sat on the counter all weekend, and I opened it up last night (Monday). It was perfectly ripe, sweet and just a touch soft but not at all mushy or translucent with sugar. When I scooped out the seeds I noticed the inside looked a little... frosted? dusty? water condensation? It had just a bit more condensation than I usually see on the insides of a honeydew. I guessed it was mold dust like what you see on grapes and other fruit, but on the inside of a honeydew?? To be careful I ran the spoon over the dusty part to clean off and washed the spoon, though I've never been allergic to that stuff before.

I ate about 1/5 the melon and my throat was scratchy immediately afterward and it lasted all night. I could be hypochondriacing but the skin on my arms felt crawly afterwards too too. I don't have allergies, food, pet or otherwise. I get a sore throat from pineapple sometimes but I figured that's due to acidity. I regularly eat a lot of honeydew but I usually buy it pre-sliced and pre-cleaned.

Honeydew in question is now in the fridge and deliciously ripe and calling my name...

I'm pregnant so for safety's sake I will likely toss it but
- can I eat this? (pregnant)
- can anyone eat this? (non-pregnant, non-allergic)

Also if you have any explanations it would be appreciated! Thanks :D
posted by St. Peepsburg to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know the answer, but for what it's worth, honeydew is the main fruit my allergist told me to avoid because they tend to mold very easily. Something about the crevices in the rind? Anyway, yeah, honeydew can be moldy for sure.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:34 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you get hayfever or pollen allergies? Seasonal sniffles and post-nasal drip? Maybe its Oral Allergy Syndrome. I sometimes get weird numb/scratchy throat from SOMETHING in mesclun/salad mixes. Most articles online about OAS mention honeydew as a trigger for people. I gather that in rare cases, the weird tingly/scratchy feeling can trigger anaphlaxis, but mostly it just feels weird [i tend to poke at my mouth in the same way I do if I get Novocaine at the dentist. Because it's weird!
I have no information or advice re pregnancy and mold and or OAS.
posted by atomicstone at 11:49 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not a doctor. But I do have food allergies.

In my non-expert opinion, this could easily be an allergic reaction to eating raw fruit. Raw fruit allergies are more common than one might think, and as oral allergies they sometimes manifest as itchy throats or mouths, swollen tongues or tingly lips, or as skin irritation. Sometimes, the symptoms only occur when the food is in your mouth and dissipate once swallowed, but it's possible to have them last for hours. I get migraines and a weird cottony-feeling mouth numbness from sunflower seeds and oil, and the effects can last for between 4 and 24 hours.

It may also be a reaction to ingesting the mold (which may or may not be mold) or something the fruit was treated with.

If it were me, I wouldn't chance a second reaction. It's possible to have a more severe reaction upon repeated exposure, or even to go into anaphylaxis, which is less likely, but can be life threatening. But YMMV.

It may also be a reaction that is only manifesting because you are pregnant and your hormones are not at their normal levels. During her pregnancy, my wife had severe skin itching, which her OB initially thought was an allergy but turned out to be a liver issue.

Consider checking with your doctors to see if you can take Benadryl while pregnant. It's an antihistamine that has been recommended to me in the past for minor food allergy reactions. I carry it everywhere, just in case. And when you're no longer pregnant, maybe think about getting tested? Allergy testing is a quick process, and would help eliminate any mysteries.

Oh, and congratulations! :)
posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Epidemiologist chiming in to say: when in doubt, throw it out (or compost it if you can). This is oft-repeated advice from CDC and other agencies, and not just a maternal-sounding epithet. Foods we eat raw should be given extra scrutiny, and that goes doubly for your momma-to-be.

If you've never been tested for food allergies, consider having that done after you've had your baby (or before if you're up for it).

My suspicion is that you may have gotten a melon that had a possibly imperceptible crack that allowed a bacterium or a couple mold spores to work their way into the flesh. The throat symptoms you describe strike me as local irritation, not an allergic response, and that can happen when you get exposed to all sorts of things (the fatty sugars in some bacterial cell walls, for instance). Your itchy crawly response may have been simply your mind running wild with questions after you noticed (something that happens to me, too).

This may also have been just an overripe fruit and your sense of scrutiny got pumped into overdrive. A lot of melons have weird fuzzy structures on the inside that can look dusty or otherwise out of place inside a wet fruit when first cut. You're not used to seeing this stuff if you usually buy prepared melon chunks (which, I should add, are more likely to be contaminated than fresh, whole, in-the-rind melon, despite the appearance of being "cleaner"--it's been through an industrial process or two if it arrives to you cut and packaged, and that means it's touched machinery, hands, rinse solutions, conveyer belts, baggers, etc. and every step is a contamination opportunity). You have no real way of knowing unless you have a sample examined, and that's not needed. Just toss the melon and get a replacement!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:50 AM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

No. Don't. Better safe than sorry, better to go without than perhaps need an epipen right now. IANAD.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:13 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you weren't pregnant, I'd point out that this is grass allergy season and there are a lot of colds going around and sometimes you come down with an unrelated sore throat right after you eat a melon. But you're pregnant. There's no point in being anything less than 100% conservative. Toss the melon.

For future melons, if you don't already, it's worth washing the melon with soapy water and drying with a paper towel to remove any surface bacteria that might be swept into the interior of the melon with the knife when you cut into it. Cantaloupes are higher risk since they have that nice pebbly skin that holds on to dirt, but I do this with all melons, even watermelon. Cheap insurance.
posted by pie ninja at 12:24 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think it might be better to avoid melons during pregnancy anyway unless you know in detail how they were grown, because it came out a few years ago that some farmers were resorting to mothballs to repel raccoons, and the melons were absorbing it to a degree that friends of a few consumers were smelling it on their breath.

I believe this might have come up even in a previous Ask.
posted by jamjam at 12:37 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

All true melons make my throat scratchy, and if I eat enough, I get mild asthma. I can eat a little bit, but more than a few cubes and I get the scratchiness. You might have the same issue as I do - a piece here or there is usually fine, but 1/5 of a melon would definitely cause my throat to close up.
posted by umwhat at 12:37 PM on July 14, 2015

Single-point anecdata: my cousin, who adored honeydew as a kid, was wildly allergic (unable to breathe, throwing up, etc) to them all through puberty, but is okay with them now.
posted by scruss at 12:55 PM on July 14, 2015

I'm also allergic to true melons (everything but watermelon basically), and while my allergy has never progressed beyond a wildly itchy throat and crawly skin, that's enough motivation to me to not eat them, even though I love them.

Are you allergic to ragweed? Apparently the two are sometimes connected.
posted by scrute at 1:13 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Might be Oral Allergy Syndrome.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:17 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing Oral Allergy Syndrome. Melons and ragweed get cross-pollinated and BAM, one-way ticket to scratchytown. Happens to me with melon and banana as well.
posted by miratime at 4:15 PM on July 14, 2015

Honeydew is the only food that makes my mouth and throat scratchy after eating it. I avoid it because the sensation is unpleasant, like the feeling right before you come down with unmistakable signs of a bad cold. It's not worth it. I was surprised in adulthood when my dad refused an offer of honeydew and described the same reaction. When my kids were little I decided that they should not eat honeydew themselves until they were old enough to tell us if they had a similar problem. It feels like an allergy but it seems unlikely that a specific allergy could be inherited like this.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 7:38 PM on July 14, 2015

It's definitely possible to develop a food allergy suddenly. This exact thing happened to me unexpectedly a couple of years ago with walnuts. Which makes me sad. I am in my mid-thirties, so it seems like random timing. Oddly, the same thing happened to a close friend of mine-- walnuts, no other nuts. I guess he also became allergic to scallops.

I basically just avoid walnuts. Not worth the hours of my mouth feeling sore and abraded.

I would agree with the pregnancy/hormones thing, though. That will mess with everything. You might be happily back to Melontown when your body settles again.

In the meantime, say hello to walnuts for me. I miss them.
posted by Because at 5:04 AM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone, now that I think of it I might be developing late-in-life allergies, a couple of years ago I ate some marzipan and my tongue got a little swelled... guess I could only rock the "zero allergies" gravy train so long.

.... the saddest Peeps in the world puts the honeydew in the compost... and from now on I will wash melons, that's good advice, thanks.

Because - the walnuts told me to tell you that it's not you, it's them. They just needed to work out some stuff on their own for a while.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:18 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

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