August 9, 2006
Contact: Tom Capezzuto
Some Fruits, Vegetables May Exacerbate Oral
Ragweed Allergies for Hay Fever Sufferers
NEWARK — If your mouth or throat itches after eating certain fresh fruits or vegetables in late summer or early fall, you probably are one of several million people suffering from a form of ragweed allergies known as oral allergy syndrome, says an allergist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
Each year in mid-August, when ragweed begins to bloom, certain fruits and vegetables may instantly trigger cross-ragweed reactions that will cause unrelenting itchiness in the mouth and palate and even mild swelling, known as angiodema, said Dr. Leonard Bielory, director of the Asthma and Allergy Research Center at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark.
There are popular fruits and vegetables, such as bananas and melons that are considered cross-reactors and contain common proteins found in plants of the same botanical family, and will frequently trigger instant ragweed allergy reactions, Dr. Bielory said. The list of fruits and vegetables connected to this oral allergy syndrome include honeydew, cantaloupe, cucumbers, zucchini, sunflower seeds, chamomile tea and echinacea.
Oral allergy syndrome also is common in people with birch tree pollen allergies, Dr. Bielory explained. Foods that may cause reactions in people with this type of allergy include peaches, apples, pears, cherries, carrots, hazelnut, kiwi and almonds.
Allergic reactions to these foods may not be as severe or nagging as exposure to the large, leafy ragweed plants that grow in back yards, or lurk in fields or by streams each fall, but they may cause discomfort and ruin enjoyment of these foods for a period of time and adversely affect quality of life during ragweed season. The season ends with the year’s first frost.
Typical ragweed reactions include sneezing, coughing, congestion, running noses, headaches, irritated eyes and sometimes wheezing, Dr. Bielory said.
The best way to avert the effects of ragweed pollen is to use air conditioning in homes and cars as much as possible, and avoid exercising outdoors during the day when pollen levels are highest, he noted. Consider cutting the grass and trimming bushes and shrubs in the evening. Goggles and a dust mask will offer additional protection.
Those with hay fever should also shower before going to bed to wash off pollen, and pet owners should wipe down animal fur after a pet comes indoors for the evening.
There are both prescription and over-the-counter medications available to counteract the effects of ragweed season on those with allergies, Dr. Bielory added. For information regarding daily pollen counts, call UMDNJ pollen count hotline at (973) 972-6518.
To arrange an interview with Dr. Bielory, call Tom Capezzuto at (973) 972-7273.
UMDNJ is the nations largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the states three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level 1 Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.