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Pollen allergy and food

People with pollen allergy may experience allergic symptoms when they eat certain nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

Individuals suffering from pollen allergy experience symptoms in the period when the pollen they are allergic to is in the air. Allergy towards pollen typically shows up as hay fever with sneezing, a running nose and eyes at the same time as an annoying itch. The nose can also become blocked making it hard to breathe. Occasionally pollen allergy can also show up as asthma.

Cross-reactions with foods

Picture: ColourboxPollen allergic people can also experience allergic symptoms when they eat certain nuts, fruits, and vegetables. The body reacts because it cannot distinguish between the substances in pollen causing allergy and similar substances in foods. This is called cross-reactions or cross allergy.

An uncomfortable itching and a slight swelling of the lips, mouth, and throat are the most common symptoms when people react to foods that are cross-reacting with pollen. Some may experience that it itches all the way to the ears. Less common symptoms include nettle rash, asthma and symptoms in the gastro-intestinal tract. Very few experience eczema on their hands when they touch the offending foods.

Some people with pollen allergy get symptoms all the year round if they eat foods that are cross-reacting with pollen. Others only experience symptoms in the pollen season.

It is also possible to experience allergic symptoms from nuts, fruits, or vegetables without being allergic to pollen.

More information

Chapter on cross-reactivity of food allergens:

Chapman JA et al. (2006). “Food allergy: a practice parameter.” Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 96, S1-S68.

The InformAll Database: