New Concerns About Pollen Allergies

May 31, 12:47 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

If you've felt your seasonal sinus problems were a lot worse than usual this past year, you're not imagining things. The warmer climate that has gradually been settling in over the last few years is causing lengthier pollen seasons. Higher levels of CO2 in the air are also causing plants to produce more potent pollen, according to Stanley Fineman, MD, president of the American College of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology.

This situation is causing an upsurge in a formerly rare condition known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS), which is associated with pollen sensitivities. In OAS, a person's immune system becomes cross-sensitized to food proteins that are similar to pollen proteins. When an individual eats an offending food (including herbal teas or supplements), they experience swelling and itching of the lips, tongue, mouth and/or throat. The reaction may be severe enough to cause anaphylaxis, and can sometimes cause itching on parts of the body other than the face.

Because pollen sensitization is cumulative, OAS usually appears in older adults. It is difficult to diagnose, because physicians don't often make the connection between food allergies and pollen. Someone with OAS may develop a permanent allergy to certain foods, or they may only be allergic to a food during the season when the related pollen-producing plant is in bloom. The proteins in carrots and celery are particularly likely to cause problems.

Known cross-sensitizations are:

Ragweed
Bananas, chamomile, cucumbers, echinacea, melon, sunflower seeds, zucchini

Grasses
Oranges, tomatoes

Mugwort
Apples, carrots, celery, coriander, kiwi fruit

Birch
Almonds, apples, carrots, celery, cherries, hazelnuts, peaches, pears, plums

 

 

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