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.
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
- difficulty breathing
- tightness in the throat or chest
- difficulty swallowing
- sore throat or hoarseness
- runny nose
- nasal congestion
- irritated, itchy eyes
Risk factors to consider
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:
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
- 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.
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
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.
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.
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.