Can someone be allergic to 'citrus'?
January 6, 2006 8:43 AM   Subscribe

When people say that they are allergic to citrus are they just trying to be difficult?

I always thought that citrus based fruits were the fruits that everybody agreed upon. Not so apparently; A coworker of mine refuses to touch the stuff and claims that it gives him 'horrible reactions'.

He does drink a lot of coca-cola, which contains citric acid. Is this not the same thing?
posted by dobie to Food & Drink (27 answers total)
Some folks have trouble digesting the pulp, leading to rather spectacular runs that wouldn't necessarily be brought on by citric acid. Could this be what he means by "horrible reactions"?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:46 AM on January 6, 2006

A friend of mine gets a rash when she eats oranges, but she sometimes eats them anyway because she loves them - so I've literally seen it happen to her and know it's not BS (not that I'd think she was "trying to be difficult" anyway). I usually get sores in my mouth if I eat more than one piece of citrus fruit in a day. And I know some people have the trouble PinkStainlessTail describes. I don't know anything about the cola/citrus acid connection though.
posted by katie at 8:53 AM on January 6, 2006

My wife, although she likes the taste, ends up with a rash around her lips when she eats many acidic fruits. So it's not all bullshit.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:53 AM on January 6, 2006

I don't understand if the question is "Is coca-cola equivalent in every single way, allergic reactionwise, to a citric fruit?" or "Is is possible to be allergic to citric fruit but not to citric acid"? The answer is no and yes. Even if he is allergic to citric acid, the quantity present in a coke may be small so as not to trigger a reaction and also the other substances in the coke may inhibit whatever is causing the reaction.

I also fail to understand the question tone. Do you believe your co-worker is refusing to drink fruit juice just to annoy you? Or even, why are you annoyed by people who don't want/like or can't drink the juice of some specific fruits?
posted by nkyad at 8:53 AM on January 6, 2006

Citric foods play hell on some people with acid reflux, ulcers, or other sourness sensitivities.
posted by plexiwatt at 9:00 AM on January 6, 2006

I have a baby and my BC government handout on introducing solids says to wait until about 12 months to introduce citrus. If there is any parental/sibling history of ANY food allergy, then they want you to wait until much later. The citrus fruits are considered fairly allergenic. They also cause problems for people with Crohn's, IBD, IBS, ulcers, and acid reflux, as noted above. Some people also end up with irritations around their various mucus membranes. Ouch.
posted by acoutu at 9:08 AM on January 6, 2006

Just to add -a friend of mine with Crohn's (ulcerative colitis type condition of the bowel- horrible!) could not touch citrus fruits but loved Diet colas. Even small amounts of lemon peel in a cake recipe seemed to trigger a pretty awful colicky pain and possible runs, so maybe the co-worker doesn't want to go into detail cos lot of people are still embarassed to discuss their plumbing at work!
posted by Wilder at 9:14 AM on January 6, 2006

Strictly speaking, an allergy is a reaction of the immune system. The immune system reacts against proteins. You can be allergic to any protein (though some it is quite rare to be allergic to) an allergy to citrus fruit would be an allergy to proteins in the fruit, not the citric acid.

Though, in general, people use the term allergy to mean an adverse reaction to something that most people don't have an adverse reaction to. So there are probably many other possible explanations for the co-worker's situation.
posted by winston at 9:15 AM on January 6, 2006

My friend breaks out in hives when she eats (or more often, drinks) things with lime in them. She's also had a problem with white cranberry juice and anything with blue or red maui (liquor) in it. Yet, she has no reaction to lemons, and has them with everything.
posted by bozichsl at 9:19 AM on January 6, 2006

An allergy can be pretty specific. I'm allergic to oranges and orange juice, but not lemons or limes. My face gets puffy and I break out in hives.

I went to an allergy clinic and had a battery of tests done (The kind where they prick you on the back and arms with 150 needles, one with each potential allergen. Ow.). They had me bring in what I thought I was allergic to, so I had an orange on hand. The specialist I talked to hadn't heard of an orange-specific allergy before, but when they tested me with it, I reacted as strongly as I did to pure histamine.
posted by aneel at 9:27 AM on January 6, 2006

nkyad, I promise that I don't feel this way about everyone who has a specific beverage aversion. You were correct in noticing my annoyed tone, but this is just related to the person in question; It sometimes seems as though he enjoys his not so common food allergies a little bit too much (also apparently allergic to curry "or anything too spicy" ) and has used them to quash any group lunches that might stray from the usual trough-style buffet places.

It's not like I'm going to stand on my desk, finger pointed and yell "J'accuse" (it could work, we're in Quebec). I just wanted to know, and it seems like his sensitivity might be legitimate.
posted by dobie at 9:40 AM on January 6, 2006

My mother and I are both allergic to most raw fruits and vegetables. Heating them to a certain temperature apparently breaks down the offending proteins-- I love banana smoothies, but I have to nuke the bananas first or suffer a terrible itchy throat. I don't see how this would be me just being difficult. If anyone's being difficult, it's the bananas.
posted by justkevin at 9:42 AM on January 6, 2006

It's not like I'm going to stand on my desk, finger pointed and yell "J'accuse" (it could work, we're in Quebec).

That's too bad. When I worked in an office that was fond of group lunches, I solved this by finding a few people who were interested in trying a few more places.
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:47 AM on January 6, 2006

The immune system reacts against proteins.

For the record, this doesn't mean that non-protein compounds (e.g. penicillin, latex) can't be immunogenic/allergenic.
posted by rxrfrx at 9:57 AM on January 6, 2006

Some information I found interesting, from this page:

Q. What is a food allergen?

A. A naturally occurring food protein that can cause an allergic reaction in some people. That person’s immune system mistakes an allergen for a threat and mounts a response. ... Experts estimate that eight groups of foods account for more than 90% of all food allergies in the U.S. Sometimes referred to as the “Big eight allergens”, these eight groups of foods are: milk, eggs, soybeans, peanuts, wheat, tree nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, and cashews), fish, and Crustacean shellfish (e.g. shrimp, lobster, and crab).


Food allergies can be life threatening. With the exception of asthmatic individuals who are sensitive to sulfites, however, food intolerances generally do not result in death.

posted by WestCoaster at 10:06 AM on January 6, 2006

For the purposes of group lunches, does it matter if he's actually desperately allergic to something or if it merely makes him unpleasantly ill? I mean, really, the idea of group lunches is to go out and be pleasantly social with the group. Forcing one of the group to either suffer an easily predictable case of heartburn or gastric distress or stay at the office is neither pleasant nor social.

And as I type this, I realize I've been a bit of a bitch in the way I've handled group lunches with my team at work, as well, decrying the group choice of bland chains. The bland chains won't hurt me, and it's really more about the people than the food, much as I'd prefer better food.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:13 AM on January 6, 2006

I understand dobie's tone. We have a coworker like that, too. He's "allergic" to any non-organic meat, wheat, eggs, milk, sugar cane, mold, and more recently, fog.There are others, but I've forgotten them. It's very annoying. He's a friend so we put up with it. If he wasn't, he just wouldn't be invited to lunches anymore.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:35 AM on January 6, 2006

The solution is to make that person pick out the place to eat, with the stipulation that it be non-chain.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:36 AM on January 6, 2006

Frankly? Your co-worker seems like a bit of an ass to me.

I have food 'allergies' - some citrus fruits (It seems to be a inconsistant reaction. Sometimes my throat itches and mouth swells up, sometimes, nothing) and tomatos.

More importantly? My boyfriend has a plethora of them. (to date: Milk, pork*, carrots, pumpkin, shellfish, cinnamon, pineapple, strawberries, apples... I know there's more, actually, but I can't remember the rest.

He considers it -his- burden to bear. Not the responsbility of everyone else, and if the group wants to go get a big bucket of pineapple-cinnamon-bacon-cheese? He'll call ahead and make sure the place has something he can eat.

Your co-worker insisting that the group cater to him and his digestive whims? Ass.

*No, he's not Jewish. He's honest-to-God allergic to both milk and pork)
posted by FritoKAL at 11:03 AM on January 6, 2006

Fog? He claims to be allergic to fog?
posted by evariste at 11:39 AM on January 6, 2006

We have a coworker like that, too. He's "allergic" to any non-organic meat, wheat, eggs, milk, sugar cane, mold, and more recently, fog. Seriously? Does that mean he has to stay in the East Bay at all times?
posted by sixdifferentways at 11:53 AM on January 6, 2006

No, it means he gets to complain of allergic reactions at all times. Occasionally it's tempting to stab him with an epi pen every time he does this, but so far I've resisted.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:15 PM on January 6, 2006

small_ruminant's friend may be a hypochondriac, but I think there's an unfair tendency to suspect allergies are used as excuses for pickiness. While he's probably not allergic to fog, some molds spore when it's foggy.

I've vetoed group restaurant suggestions based on allergies, although only for southeast Asian restaurants known for wide peanut use.
posted by justkevin at 12:17 PM on January 6, 2006

People who claim to be allergic to things they simply don't like really irritate me. I have life-threatening allergies to walnuts and brazil nuts, and because of people like Dobie's and small_ruminant's co-workers, a lot of people think I'm just being difficult or neurotic when, really, seriously, it's a matter of life and death. It also bugs me when TV and movies portray characters with food allergies as difficult whiners whose condition is all in their heads, rather than people who would, you know, not care to die because of something they ate.
posted by Shoeburyness at 12:38 PM on January 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

People can be allergic to quite a number of things. My sister has a nephew that was classified as developmentally challanged, basically, as he didn't speak until past 2 years, and had attention problems. They were very worried he might be mute or deaf or something, but the doctor's couldn't find anything wrong. Finally one smart doctor started allergy tests, and found that the poor kid is allergic to like, 10 different things that are normally used.

While I don't know the specifics, I'm pretty sure Citris was one of them. And basically it was stunting his mental development, leaving him in a semi-drugged state. Once the allergies were determined and the foods were avoided, he started immediate improvement, and is perfectly normal today. (I think he's 4 or 5.)

However, allergic to fog? Uuuu....I think if he says that some mold spores bloom/spread more when it's foggy, then that makes sense. But if he actually says he's allergic to fog, then he's a goof. And while he may actually be allergic to those other things, he obviously doesn't understand allergies, and I wouldn't trust him regarding his own opinions on his 'condition'.
posted by Phynix at 1:33 PM on January 6, 2006

Since it's extremely cheap, chances are the citric-acid is derived from corn, not citrus.
posted by Feisty at 9:12 AM on January 17, 2006

Fog is interesting as an allergen. I have met people who are allergic to water. Seems weird but I think it is the chlorine in it. One was allergic to rain. Could be the chemicals that are in the air and wash out as it rains. At any rate, it is difficult and sometimes expensive to pin down an allergy. Insurance companies will not cover the newer and more accurate testing. When I eat tomato
products I get a burning and tingling in my face, arms and hands. Same thing with oranges. My ENT said it is possibly
mold or mildew as some overly ripe and moldering produce are used in juicing and canning. I was advised to avoid processed citrus. I detest raw tomaotes so usually only eat the cooked product. An excessively acid batch can produce mouth sores. Not necessarily an allergy but perhaps a sensitivity since it is uncomfortable but not life
threatening. Be kind as you have not walked in the other persons shoes. : )
posted by CatyDidn't at 11:34 AM on February 20, 2006

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