Ask the Allergist - Food Allergy to Melons?
Q: Sometimes my mouth tingles when I eat melons - is this a food allergy? And could these symptoms become more dangerous?
A: You are describing a kind of allergy called oral allergy syndrome (also called food-pollen allergy syndrome), tied to the fact that some fruit and vegetable proteins are genetic cousins to certain pollens, like ragweed. So people allergic to pollen may experience symptoms when they eat related foods - such as cantaloupe or watermelon with ragweed allergy, or apples or carrots with birch tree - especially during the pollen seasons.
The most common symptom of this disorder is a little tingling of the lips or itching in the mouth. Fortunately, most of the time it doesn't go beyond an annoyance. Unlike proteins in peanut or shrimp, known to cause serious allergic reactions, these fruit and vegetable proteins break down quickly when exposed to enzymes in your mouth or stomach so they are unlikely to be absorbed into your bloodstream and cause a more generalized reaction. There are reports that the severity could increase, but is it common? No.
As with all allergy symptoms, however, I would advice someone who experiences these symptoms to see an allergist. An allergist can help you predict which additional foods might potentially cause problems, based on pollen skin test results. Because they break down quickly, oral allergy food proteins are not often detected in standard food allergy skin tests. But if you take the fresh fruit to the appointment and do a skin test with that, it may be positive.