It’s a fall fairytale gone awry: you bite into a perfect, crisp apple, and soon after your throat starts to itch and your lips swell. You know this can happen with peanuts — cherries, too — but apples?
“Apple allergy is probably more common than most people think,” explains Dr. Robert Goldman of Mount Kisco Medical Group’s Allergy and Immunology Department. “Mostly, it is seen in people with seasonal allergies and part of a broader condition referred to as Oral Allergy Syndrome.”
Also known as Pollen-Food Allergy Syndrome, the disorder relates to a cross-reactivity between environmental airborne allergens and plant proteins, and is most prevalent in adults, says Goldman.
Most who are allergic to apples won’t suffer more than, say, itchy ears, tingling lips and a mild swelling of the throat. “Some patients who have hay fever-nasal congestion, runny nose and itchy and teary eyes will experience discomfort in the mouth and throat when eating certain fresh fruits, raw vegetables and nuts,” says Goldman, pointing out that some studies reveal 50 to 70 percent of adults allergic to the likes of birch, ragweed and mugwort pollens will experience Oral Allergy Syndrome.
Though, there is good news. “The proteins causing these symptoms are easily broken down with heating, therefore patients generally tolerate the fruit when cooked,” says Goldman.
Luckily, that means apple pie remains a danger-free zone.