The pollen-food syndrome is a type of allergy that occurs in some people who have an allergy to trees, grasses,
and/or weeds. It occurs because of a cross-reactivity between proteins in pollen and the foods. In essence, the
proteins in the fruit look very similar to the proteins in pollen so that when you eat the fruit, your body thinks you
are eating pollen. Symptoms occurs with raw, unprocessed foods ; when the food is cooked, processed, or
canned, no symptoms develop. The types of foods that cause the symptoms depend on the type of
environmental allergy the person has. For example:
- People allergic to birch pollen can develop symptoms when they eat fresh apples, pears, peaches, or
- People allergic to grasses can have problems with watermelon, melon, oranges, tomatoes, kiwi, and
- Ragweed allergic individuals can also have problems with watermelon and melon, along with honeydew,
cantaloupe, cucumber, and zucchini.
What are the symptoms of pollen food syndrome?
Symptoms include the sensation of itching in the mouth, throat, or lips while eating fresh fruits, vegetables, or
nuts. Very rarely, the symptoms can be more severe, to include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, swelling of
the throat, and difficulties breathing.
What can I do if I have the pollen food syndrome?
First of all, you should see an allergist to make sure that the problem you have with the food is due to the pollen-
food syndrome, and not a severe life threatening food allergy. Once confirmed, you might try to peel the fruit, or
microwave it for 10-30 seconds. If this does not help, eating fruits/vegetables which are canned, or have been
thoroughly cooked should do the trick. Allergy shots for environmental allergies can sometimes make the pollen-
food syndrome totally go away.