Adult-onset allergies are common, but tomato allergies are pretty rare.
Singer Ariana Grande has had to cancel tour dates after having an allergic reaction that reportedly caused her throat to swell.
The offending food? Tomatoes.
The “Thank U Next” singer wrote in an Instagram post that it feels like she is “swallowing a cactus” but that she is “slowly making progress.”
She also wrote there’s “NOTHING MORE UNFAIR THAN AN ITALIAN WOMAN DEVELOPING AN ALLERGY TO TOMATOES IN HER MID TWENTIES.”
Tomatoes may seem an unlikely cause for food allergies, but it’s possible to develop a late in life allergy to them. Even if you’ve spent years eating pizza and pasta with red sauce.
Dr. Punita Ponda, assistant chief of allergy and immunology at Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York, said it’s rare for a person to develop a tomato allergy no matter their age.
“Tomato allergy in children or adults is relatively uncommon and in adults. True tomato allergy is also uncommon,” Ponda told Healthline.
Additionally, if a person develops an allergy to the tomato they are more likely to have a reaction to other nightshades, including potatoes and eggplant.
Ponda pointed out that sometimes people can have a reaction to tomatoes that isn’t technically a food allergy.
She explained in some cases the food can cause oral allergy syndrome (OAS). In that case the symptoms of an itchy throat and mouth are a result of a reaction between pollen in the air and ingested fruits and vegetables.
As the body’s immune system reacts to pollen, it can register certain vegetables or fruits as similar to pollen and set off a similar allergic reaction.
If someone bites into a fresh vegetable or fruit with a similar protein structure as pollen they are allergic to, it can set off the same allergy symptoms.
“It happens in people who have environmental allergies to pollen,” Ponda said. “When they bite into a fresh tomato they might feel something of an itchy mouth and itchy tongue.”
She said this reaction usually only occurs with fresh fruits or vegetables.
According to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, people with grass allergies are more likely to have a reaction to tomatoes.
While most food allergies develop in children, adult-onset allergies are fairly common, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The most common form of food allergies for adults are peanuts, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts.
A study published in January in
“Adult-onset food allergies are an important emerging health problem,” the authors wrote. While researchers found that “shellfish, tree nut, and fin fish allergies were the most common adult-onset food allergies, it appears to be possible to develop adult-onset food allergies to all major food allergen groups.”
Ponda said most people don’t develop an allergy to foods they eat every day, but instead they develop an allergy to foods they eat only occasionally, such as shellfish and tree nuts.
More information on tomato allergies as well as recipes for people who crave tomatoes can be found here.