Cats and Pork, Latex and Pickles: Cross Triggers for Food Allergies



Hay fever sufferers take note.
You might want to skip the swiss chard and sunflower seeds. You should also avoid munching on celery sticks in the shade of a birch tree.
Do you react to latex? Then skip the dill pickles.
Steer clear of tropical fruit if dust mites make you sneeze, and yes, pork and cat dander can be problematic.

Cross-allergies are on the rise.
The medical community calls it Oral Allergy Syndrome, and like the recent rise of food allergies, it’s becoming more common. About a third of seasonal allergy sufferers will cross-react to certain foods, and that number is closer to two-thirds if birch or alder pollen are your triggers.

Here’s how it works:
The same chemicals that cause hay fever and other airborne allergies can also be found in some foods. There’s a whole grocery list of reactive foods, but the culprit is usually a raw fruit or vegetable that contains the same protein as the airborne allergen. Eat the wrong food, and it sends the immune system into overdrive and triggers an allergic reaction. Instead of the sneezing and itchy eyes you get when you inhale the allergen, you’ll end up with a tingly mouth, hives, difficulty swallowing, or even anaphylaxis—all food allergy symptoms.

These are the most commonly occurring cross-allergies and their offending foods:

  • Dust/Dust Mites: mangos, shellfish, plums, melons, tomato, avocado, pawpaw, pineapple, peaches, and kiwis.
  • Latex: almonds, apples, bananas, kiwis, avocado, dill, oregano, ginger, and sage.
  • Birch/Alder Tree Pollen: celery, apples, apricots, cherries and other stone fruits, parsnips, buckwheat, caraway seeds, and coriander.
  • Hayfever (Ragweed/Grasses): cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, bananas, sunflower seeds, zucchini, cucumber, and chamomile tea.
  • Cat Dander: pork.

Some foods contain more of the troublesome proteins than others—peaches more than plums, apples more than pears. And there can be differences between varieties—Gala and Golden Delicious apples cause more allergic reactions than Braeburns, and Crenshaw melons are benign while cantaloupe and watermelon are powerful triggers.

Not every pollen produces cross-allergies; some trees like maple, oak, and poplar don’t share reaction-causing proteins with foods. Nor does having one of these allergies mean you’ll necessarily cross-react with any of the implicated foods. And, if you do react, you may not be allergic to every food on the list.

You can learn more at FAAN, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.


2 Responses to Cats and Pork, Latex and Pickles: Cross Triggers for Food Allergies

  1. Janice says:

    I’ve never heard the bucket metaphor, although minefield might be more apt.

  2. Jacqueline says:

    This cross- reaction is alarming. When one develops allergies the managing of symptoms and exposure requires constant vigilance. My allergist explained it using the bucket metaphor. During birch pollen season, my bucket is full, so other things (esp those with similar looking proteins, e.g. nectarines, apples, figs, walnuts) all can cause that “spillover”. Other times of the year not so much. I was vividly reminded when after accidental exposure to dairy (who knew commercial chicken stock with whey was used in my “dairy free” rice and beans?) my hives were almost gone when a sweet Border Collie had to hug me. Forgetting about my mild dog allergy I praised and petted her, of course. …

    Anyway, thanks for the timely post.Good info.

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