Understanding Oral Allergy Syndrome Allergic Reactions


Will oral allergy syndrome go away?

The symptoms of oral allergy syndrome, or pollen-food allergy syndrome, typically last about 5 to 30 minutes after the food is consumed and usually resolve without treatment. It may sometimes last as long as a few hours. A common treatment is to take an antihistamine.

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Oral allergy syndrome (OAS), sometimes called pollen-food allergy syndrome (PFAS), can affect adults and children with seasonal allergies. Those with pollen allergies can experience allergy symptoms after eating certain foods with proteins that the body mistakes for the pollen they are allergic to.

Keep reading for more information about OAS, including what triggers these symptoms and what you should do if you experience this type of allergic reaction.

What Triggers Pollen-Food Allergy Syndrome (PFAS)?

When you deal with OAS, eating fruits, vegetables, or nuts with particular proteins may trigger a chain reaction of allergy symptoms. The same pollen that causes seasonal allergies also triggers OAS.

Common pollens linked to OAS include:

  • Alfalfa
  • Ragweed
  • Grass
  • Mulberry
  • Elderberry
  • Birch
  • Beechnut

One important thing to remember with OAS is that you don't need to ingest pollen to experience an allergic reaction. Certain foods, mainly fruits, vegetables, and nuts, contain proteins similar in structure to these types of pollen. For this reason, when you eat these foods, the immune system can become confused, triggering an OAS reaction.

What Are the Symptoms of OAS?

OAS symptoms are typically mild and affect the mouth and throat. However, symptoms can vary depending on the person, the type of food or pollen, and the amount of food consumed. OAS can result in more severe allergic reactions, so it is important to know the potential symptoms.

Symptoms of OAS can include:

  • Itching, swelling, and tingling of the mouth, throat, and lips
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, and roof of the mouth

While less common, OAS can also cause:

  • Rash on the face, neck, and around the mouth
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the hands and feet

Most people who experience an oral allergy reaction will only have mild symptoms. Severe reactions occur in a small percentage of people who deal with OAS. It's still good to be aware of the potential side effects of ingesting these foods and pollen.

How Is OAS Different from Other Food Allergies?

OAS is different from other food allergies because OAS is not actually a food allergy. People with OAS have no allergy to the food itself but are reacting to the proteins in the food, which resemble proteins found in certain types of pollen.

This can cause your immune system to respond as though the pollen is present. However, the symptoms of OAS are typically not as severe as those triggered by food allergies.

How Long Does an Oral Allergy Reaction Last?

The length of an OAS reaction can vary from person to person. On average, symptoms from an OAS reaction last for about five to 15 minutes after swallowing the food. However, in rare cases, the reaction may be more serious, and the symptoms can last longer.

Some people may experience symptoms for only a few minutes, while others may experience a reaction that lasts for hours. If you have OAS and eat the trigger food again, you may experience a similar reaction. It all depends on the person and how much of the food was ingested.

What You Should Do If You're Experiencing an Oral Allergy Reaction

While OAS reactions usually are mild and brief, there are several steps you can take to help relieve your symptoms:

  • Rinse your mouth out several times to remove any traces of the food that triggered our OAS.
  • Try using a cold pack or ice on your mouth to decrease any swelling.
  • Taking an over-the-counter antihistamine may help some of your symptoms to go away faster, but if your symptoms typically last less than 15 minutes, it may not provide any additional relief.

To prevent future OAS reactions you can:

  • Keep track of which raw foods trigger your OAS and try to avoid eating them in the future.
  • Cook the fruits or vegetables that usually trigger your OAS prior to consuming them.

If you experience severe symptoms such as tightness in your chest, difficulty breathing, or loss of motor skills, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Should You Carry an EpiPen for OAS?

If you have OAS, you've probably wondered if carrying an EpiPen might help prevent or reduce the symptoms' severity. The short answer is no unless directed by your allergist. Carrying an EpiPen for OAS can increase the risk of side effects and complications.

Epinephrine works by relaxing the muscles in your airways and decreasing the swelling that causes mild symptoms like itchy eyes, runny nose, or sneezing. However, if you have OAS and use an EpiPen, you can make your immune system even more sensitive to that particular food. This can lead to more serious reactions in the future.

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