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Do I Have a Kiwi Allergy?

Overview

kiwi

Key points

  1. An allergy to kiwi may increase your risk for a latex allergy.
  2. If you’re allergic to kiwi, you may also have an allergy to banana, avocado, or chestnut. Use extreme caution when eating these foods if you already have a known kiwi allergy.
  3. In rare cases, a kiwi allergy can cause anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency.

The kiwifruit, also called Chinese gooseberry, is a healthy and colorful addition to your daily diet, unless you’re allergic to kiwi. For over 30 years, kiwifruit has been known to cause an allergic reaction in certain people. Some people react to the fruit just by itself, and others have other food, pollen, or latex allergies that have a cross-reaction with kiwi.

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Symptoms

Symptoms

Symptoms may be localized to the mouth or other areas that touch the kiwi. Symptoms may also be more severe and affect your entire body.

Mild symptoms include:

  • itching and tingling of the mouth, lips, and tongue after eating the fruit
  • skin rashes

In more severe cases, symptoms can be serious and can become life-threatening. Call your local emergency services immediately if you have any of these symptoms after eating kiwi:

  • difficulty breathing or asthma symptoms
  • swelling of the mouth and throat
  • numbness of lips and throat
  • severe abdominal pain
  • dizziness and loss of consciousness
  • vomiting, cramping, or diarrhea
  • drop in blood pressure, known as anaphylactic shock

Some people may show symptoms of what is known as oral allergy syndrome. This syndrome causes a person’s mouth and throat to feel itchy and tingly as soon as they eat a small amount of kiwi, or another food that they are allergic to. Oral allergy syndrome can also cause swelling and skin rashes.

Risk factors

Risk factors

If you or someone you know has a latex allergy, the risk of reacting to fruits such as kiwis, bananas, and avocados is increased. That is because allergic compounds that are present in latex are similar to compounds in certain tree pollens, fruit, nuts, and vegetables.

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Complications

Complications

If you have a kiwi allergy, your risk of reacting to other foods is higher. That is because some foods share certain allergy-causing compounds. The most severe reactions such as shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, or anaphylactic shock require immediate medical help, even if you take an antihistamine or use an EpiPen.

In children

Can my child eat kiwi?

Children need to be introduced to new foods slowly. Allow a few days after introducing new foods to observe possible adverse reactions. Kiwi is a known allergenic food. Talk to your doctor before introducing it to babies, especially if you have a family history of food allergies. Children are more sensitive than adults, but the good news is that their sensitivity to food may decrease as they grow.

Learn more: Kids and food allergies: What to look for »

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Avoidance

What foods can I eat?

Your reaction to kiwi may initially be mild, but it can become more severe every time you taste the fruit.

If you react to raw kiwi, avoid the raw fruit. Cooking it may inactivate the allergy-causing protein which makes it safer to consume. If your allergy is severe, however, you are better off staying away from it all together.

There are six different varieties of kiwi, and you may have a different reaction depending on which type of kiwi you are exposed to. Some kiwis are bright green and others are golden. It may be easy to mistake kiwi for another fruit in a salad or desert. If you have an allergy, make sure you are familiar with the appearance of the different varieties so that you may recognize it in the foods you eat.

Here are a few tips to help you minimize the risk of an allergic reaction:

  • Use caution when eating fruit salads, fruit smoothies, and fruit ice creams. They can often be contaminated with kiwi.
  • Inform your family, friends, and restaurant host about your food allergy. Food contamination can cause severe reaction in very allergic people, so anyone preparing your food should use caution to avoid accidental cross-contamination.
  • Read labels, even if you have bought the item before. Recipes change and new ingredients may be the very ones you are allergic to.
  • Use caution when eating bananas, avocados, and chestnuts. An allergy to kiwi increases your risk for being allergic to these other foods as well.
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See a doctor

Seeking help

If you notice your mouth getting tingly after eating raw kiwi, make an appointment with your doctor. If you have a pollen allergy, especially if you are allergic to birch pollen, your doctor might send you for a more complex set of food allergy tests, including kiwi.

Your doctor may recommend keeping some antihistamine medication on hand. If your allergy is severe, your doctor will recommend carrying an Epi-pen with you at all times.

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Outlook

Outlook

Some people can react to fruit such as kiwi if they are allergic to pollen or latex. Others can have a kiwifruit allergy by itself. In both cases, symptoms can be either mild or severe.

Since having a kiwi allergy can make you allergic to other fruit, nuts, and vegetables, monitor your reactions after eating various foods so you know what to avoid.

Living with food allergy means you will have to:

  • read labels
  • ask about how food was prepared
  • be ready to say no when in doubt about ingredients

You may want to carry a food allergy card with you when eating out. This card can be used to easily inform your server and the kitchen staff to your allergy. Educating others about food allergies will make everyone more aware and hopefully decrease the likelihood of allergy episodes.

Learn more: What you should know about food allergy cards »

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