My family and I have a relationship with raw fruits, mostly positive, with a
few major exceptions. One of my children has an allergy to kiwi, the kind
of reaction that is immediate. The first taste of kiwi was thrown up
right away. Another child has a mild reaction to exotic fruits, including
mangoes and even peaches. Kiwi exited our house and cooked peaches
found a place in treats. We simply adapted to the household needs and
everyone was safe and happy!
Why Does Eating Raw Fruit Cause an Allergic Reaction?
Q: I’m 16 years old and figured out last year that I’m allergic to fruit. I
ate a peach and my throat felt like it closed up and I had trouble
breathing. After a while, my mouth was just tingling. Since then, I’ve
gotten slowly allergic to many raw fruits. But l can eat them cooked
without a problem. What is it about raw fruit that makes me have
Dr. Sharma: Your reactions to fruit sound consistent with oral allergy
syndrome (OAS), also known as pollen-food allergy syndrome. In OAS, a
person with a prior history of a pollen allergy develops allergic symptoms
when eating certain raw fruits and vegetables. These often include itching
and/or mild swelling of the mouth, lips and throat.
The chemical structure of the raw fruit or vegetable is very similar to the
pollen triggers, which the immune system is already primed to defend
In your case, the peach allergen is very similar to birch tree pollen allergen.
As a result, the immune system “sees” the raw fruit and vegetables as the
pollen triggers and local allergy symptoms follow. As you have found,
cooking these fruits or vegetables often breaks down the proteins, making
them less allergenic.
Raw Fruit Allergy Can Be Serious
In most cases of OAS, symptoms are confined to the mouth and throat.
These reactions rarely escalate to more widespread reactions. A review of
several studies involving a total of more than 1,300 OAS patients found
fewer than 10 percent had widespread symptoms outside of the mouth,
throat or gastrointestinal tract. Fortunately, only 1 to 2 percent experienced
In your case, however, you should seek advice from an allergist, since you
experienced a sensation of throat closing and trouble breathing after
eating the peach. When more serious reactions occur to a raw fruit or
vegetable, an allergist may advise you to be careful to avoid that raw fruit
or vegetable and to carry epinephrine auto-injectors.
Dr. Sharma is an allergist, clinical researcher and associate professor of pediatrics. He is Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. and Director of the Food Allergy Program. He co-authors “The Food Allergy Experts” column in Allergic Living e-magazine. Questions submitted will be considered for answer.