A two-and-a-half year-old in Pennsylvania almost died after eating a mandarin orange, and her parents had no idea she was even allergic.
They quickly dosed her with Benadryl after her face started to swell, but they needed to rush her to an emergency room after her lips and tongue swelled, her breathing became labored, and she suffered from an anaphylactic reaction. The toddler’s reaction was so severe that she needed two shots of epinephrine, and then had to be connected to a ventilator and flown to a children’s ICU in Philadelphia.
Oranges are not a common allergen. When someone does react to an orange, they usually just exhibit itching or irritation around their mouth.
The child’s orange allergy was confirmed during a skin-prick test, which surprised physicians because there has not been another documented case of an anaphylactic reaction caused by an orange. They also discovered she was allergic to peaches, as well as other citrus fruits.
The little girl was released after two days, and sent home with medications to treat the asthma that her parents hadn’t realized she had. This may have caused her airway to be narrower, making the reaction more pronounced.
Citrus fruits — including their peels and extracts — are used in everything from tea, baked goods, and cereal to medicines and beauty products. Although orange allergies are rare, the fruit often causes mild oral allergies — particularly for people who are allergic to pollen. Oral allergy syndrome isn’t usually life-threatening, but it’s the most common form of food allergy in adults.
Because some of the proteins found in fresh fruits and vegetables are similar to the proteins in pollen, people who have pollen allergies might get an itchy mouth, throat, or lips when they eat certain foods.
- If you have grass pollen allergies, you might be bothered by oranges, tomatoes, or melons
If you have birch pollen allergies, you could react to apples, celery, or pears
If you have ragweed pollen allergies, you may experience a cross-reaction from melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon), cucumber, zucchini, kiwi, or bananas
The effects of an oral allergy syndrome reaction usually go away within an hour, and you can take an antihistamine to ease the itchiness. Some people with seasonal allergies might only experience oral allergy syndrome during allergy season, and others might choose to avoid their trigger foods year-round.