Oral Allergy Syndrome: What Is It?

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Last summer I learned something new. You’d think that (by then) six years in to the world of food allergies I would know all there is to know about food allergies. And you’d be wrong. And I would giggle at the idea, a lot.

Some people dig in to the research and all of the latest about food allergies as soon as they hear a diagnosis. I chose to dig my head into the sand. As much as I safely could, of course.

All of that changed last summer. It wasn’t a do-or-die situation that brought me around to really wanting to learn about the food allergy world. It was a simple statement by a friend. We were at the pool, she was asking about my son’s food allergies, I was eagerly educating her, and then she says this:

“I’ve got Oral Allergy Syndrome.”

Oral Allergy SyndromeI’m sorry—you said what? Bless you. Because clearly that’s not a thing. Wait. Is it? It is.

So, in case you were wondering, Oral Allergy Syndrome (or OAS) is a thing. And it turns out, it’s a very real thing. Ever wonder why your friend can’t eat apples, but can eat applesauce, or apples cooked in something (mmm…apple pie)? Yup. OAS.

What exactly is OAS? According to FARE, OAS is a pollen-food syndrome that causes someone allergic to a particular pollen to have a minor reaction to the related food. Take your apple-allergic friend, for instance. Chances are good your friend also has tree allergies (birch, in particular). For those that love their apples but experience the mild itching of the mouth, the good news is that OAS is typically not related to severe reactions.

While it isn’t related to life-threatening reactions the majority of the time, I do recommend you take care with any loved one that has OAS. I now know that I should separate bananas from my fruit when I’m with my friend so she doesn’t have a reaction. And honestly, I’m ok with that. At one time in my life, I may have just brushed it off as unnecessary drama. But now that I’ve got a kiddo with allergies, I realize how great it is when people recognize how food can cause either discomfort and/or a completely unsafe situation. Be a good person and recognize this.

Have you or a loved one experienced OAS but not known what it was? Share with us!

P.S. Curious to learn a little more about Oral Allergy Syndrome? Allergic Living magazine created a handy chart to show what pollen-allergic folks might react to in food.

Tiffany Self

Tiffany Self is a wife, mom to "Z", and a lover of words. In an ironic twist, she is an English class dropout who now writes for a living. Tiffany is a freelancer in the Chicago suburbs by way of Seattle and Southern Oregon. She writes about her journey of parenting a child with multiple severe food allergies, asthma, and environmental allergies. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

10 Comments to Oral Allergy Syndrome: What Is It?

  1. Wow, I’ve totally had that itchy feeling before — and I have pollen/tree/everything outdoor allergies, so it makes a lot of sense now. I’ve never heard of this before. The problem is, now I can’t remember what’s caused the feeling! At least now I’ll be sure to notice it the next time it happens! :)

    • Tiffany Self

      Heather, let me know when you figure it out! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Rebecca

    Yes! I didn’t know there was a real name for this, but I’ve never looked into it. My mom definitely has OAS for some fruits as does my mother-in-law. Surprisingly, for both of them, they said that they didn’t develop OAS until after their last pregnancy.

    • Tiffany Self

      Hi Rebecca, thanks for stopping by! I have definitely heard of hormonal changes impacting food allergies, so it doesn’t surprise me too much to hear that. It IS really interesting that it’s affected both your mother and your mother-in-law, though.

  3. Mary

    I’ve had OAS for about 4 years now.. Everything I’ve read and heard from my allergist says that it’s more common in females, and it’s typical for it to not develop until early-mid twenties. And apparently 1/3 of people with pollen allergies experience this to some degree. My list keeps growing… Currently I avoid apple, kiwi, cherry, peach, lime, and sunflower seeds.

    • Tiffany Self

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Mary! I hope your list stops growing, for your sake!

  4. Marie

    My son has this and he is highly allergic to trees. He will break put in hives around his mouth or have an itchy sensation in his mouth with any product that comes from trees. This even includes cocunuts, apples, peaches. My allergist says luckily this type of reaction will never by anaphylactic. So some good news!

  5. Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize this was a “thing” but I definitely have it! I have pollen allergies (have since I was a kid) but in recent years I have developed the itchiness in my mouth symptom with many fruits such as kiwi, (its bad with kiwi and i LOVE it so that one is sad) cantaloupe, avocado, and a few others that I can’t think of right now. But I was so worried it was a sign that I was developing an allergy to them but glad to know it’s related to my pollen allergy and hopefully the worst reaction I have is the itching. Thank you for this post, Tiffany!

  6. Pamela

    I developed OAS while pregnant, especially with apples, it was very strange and a little scary. But I have always had pollen allergies so I guess it’s not too surprising. Now that I’ve had my son the OAS symptoms have disappeared.

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