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Do I Have a Carrot Allergy?

The basics

Fast facts

  1. A carrot allergy is most likely to present in older children, teenagers, and adults.
  2. You may also be allergic to other vegetables and herbs in the parsley-carrot family.
  3. Pumpkin and sweet potatoes can both be used as a substitute for carrots.

Carrots bring sweetness, color, and nutrition to many dishes. This vegetable is rich in beta carotene and fiber. For those who are allergic, carrots are also chock-full of potentially harmful allergens.

A member of the parsley-carrot family (Apiaceae), carrots are more likely to cause allergic reactions when eaten raw than when cooked. This is because cooking unravels the allergenic proteins in carrots and lessens the impact they have on the immune system.

Allergic reactions to carrots can range from mild to serious. As with any allergy, consulting with a doctor can help you manage your symptoms.

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Symptoms

What are the symptoms of a carrot allergy?

Carrot allergy symptoms are most often associated with oral allergy syndrome. Symptoms typically occur when a piece of raw carrot is in the mouth. And symptoms go away as soon as the carrot is removed or swallowed.

Symptoms can include:

  • itchy mouth
  • swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, or throat
  • itchy ears
  • scratchy throat

These symptoms usually don’t require treatment or medication.

More severe symptoms may require medication, such as an antihistamine. These symptoms include:

  • swelling under the skin
  • hives
  • difficulty breathing
  • dizziness
  • tightness in the throat or chest
  • difficulty swallowing
  • sore throat or hoarseness
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • nasal congestion
  • irritated, itchy eyes
  • anaphylaxis

Risk factors to consider

Risk factors and cross-reactive foods

If you’re allergic to carrots, there are several other foods and plants you might be allergic to. This is known as cross-reactivity. For example, people who are allergic to carrots are often allergic to birch pollen.

This is because carrots and birch pollen have similar proteins and can cause your immune system to react in the same way. Your body releases histamine and antibodies to fight off the proteins, causing allergy-related symptoms.

You may also be allergic to other vegetables and herbs in the parsley-carrot family. These includes:

How common is this?
Although a carrot allergy can occur in young children, it’s most likely to manifest in older children, teenagers, and adults. Young children who have a carrot allergy typically outgrow it.
  • parsnip
  • parsley
  • anise
  • chervil
  • celery
  • fennel
  • caraway
  • dill
  • cumin
  • coriander
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Complications

Are complications possible?

Although carrot allergy is uncommon, it can cause serious complications for some people. Occasionally, a whole-body reaction, called anaphylaxis, may occur. Anaphylaxis can happen even if you’ve only had mild allergic reactions to carrots in the past. It’s potentially fatal and requires immediate medical attention.

Anaphylaxis may begin with mild allergic symptoms, such as itchy eyes or a runny nose, within minutes or hours after exposure to an allergen. Other symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • swelling of the mouth, lips, and throat
  • wheezing
  • gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

If anaphylaxis escalates and is left untreated, you may experience difficulty breathing, dizziness, low blood pressure, and even death.

If you or someone else appears to be having an anaphylactic allergic reaction, call your local emergency services and get medical help immediately.

If your doctor is concerned about your allergies and anaphylaxis, you may be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen), which you will need to carry around at all times.

Check out: Resource pages for parents of children with food allergies »

Hidden allergens

Where can this allergen hide?

Foods to avoid
  1. Ready-made pot roast, brisket, and other roasted meat dishes
  2. Canned stew
  3. “Green” blended health drinks

You’d think a food as colorful as carrots would always be obvious to the eye, but that’s not always the case. Because of their sweet, earthy flavor, carrots are often used as an ingredient in products you typically wouldn’t suspect. If you have carrot allergy, you’ll need to be vigilant about checking labels and asking about a meal’s ingredients when you eat out.

Products that may include carrots are:

  • bottled marinade
  • packaged rice mixes
  • fruit and vegetable juices
  • fruit smoothies
  • “green” blended health drinks
  • certain soups, such as chicken or vegetable soups
  • canned stew
  • ready-made pot roast, brisket, and other roasted meat dishes
  • cooking broth
  • baked goods

Carrot can also be found in some personal hygiene products, such as:

  • facial scrub
  • masks
  • lotions
  • cleansers
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Seeking help

When to see your doctor

If you experience an allergic reaction to carrot, it may help to see your doctor while the reaction is occurring, or shortly after.

If your allergy symptoms persist or worsen, you should consult with your doctor. Your doctor may recommend that you use over-the-counter antihistamines to control or reduce your symptoms.

If you experience any symptoms of anaphylaxis, you should seek immediate medical attention.

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Outlook

Outlook

If you have, or suspect you have, a carrot allergy, talk to your doctor. Many medications can help you manage or reduce your allergy symptoms.

The best way to avoid symptoms is to avoid carrots and products that contain carrots. And it’s important that you read all product labels.

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Food substitutes

What can I use as a substitute?

Foods to try
  1. Pumpkin
  2. Sweet potatoes
  3. Squash

Carrots are a wonderful source of beta carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A. If you’re unable to eat carrots, the best way to ensure that you get enough of this all-important nutrient is to go for other foods that are the same bright orange color. Pumpkin and sweet potatoes are both great sources of beta carotene. They can generally be used as substitutes for carrots in many recipes.

Keep reading: The best food allergy blogs of the year »

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