A food allergy is when something you eat causes an adverse reaction with your immune system. The reaction can include symptoms ranging from digestive problems, to hives, to the swelling of airwaves that can make it difficult to breathe. An estimated 15 million people have food allergies in the United States.
Apple allergies occur if your body has a reaction to apples, whether you eat them whole or in foods such as desserts or applesauce. Apples are also found in drinks like ciders, juices, and apple pectin, which is used for gelling in dishes like jams and jellies.
Apple allergies, like other food allergies, can take different forms in different people. The amount of apple that can trigger an allergic reaction can also vary from person to person.
Who becomes allergic to apples
Apple allergy and birch pollen
Apple allergies can take different forms. Some people with a birch pollen allergy may develop an apple allergy. This is because the similarities of a protein found in apples is related to a protein in birch that is linked to the allergy with birch pollen. This type of apple allergy often occurs in areas with a lot of birch trees, such as in Central and Northern Europe. If you have this type of apple allergy, cooking the apples can often destroy the allergen and prevent an allergic reaction.
Apple allergy and other fruit allergies
The other type of apple allergy is connected to peach allergies. This is because the allergens in in this type of allergy are similar in both peaches and apples. People with these allergies might also be allergic to other fruits and nuts like plums, apricots, cherries, walnuts, and hazelnuts. Cooking will usually not eliminate symptoms of an allergic reaction in this type of apple allergy.
Women tend to be more likely to have apple allergies. The allergy is also most common in adults and adolescents.
Studies are still needed to determine how much of the apple allergen or protein is needed to trigger an allergic reaction from person to person.
Symptoms of an apple allergy
If you are experiencing an allergic reaction, symptoms can appear while eating or soon after eating. You may notice that your lips swell. You may have an itching feeling in your throat or the back of your mouth. Symptoms can occur while eating an apple or food containing apple. Symptoms include:
- swollen lips
- itchy feeling in your throat or back of your mouth
- swollen eyelids
- stomach pain or cramping
- skin rash or hives
For some people these symptoms might fade after 15 minutes.
In severe cases, an emergency condition called anaphylaxis might occur. This is a very serious condition where your body goes into shock, your blood pressure lowers, and your air passages narrow. This requires immediate medical attention and an injection of epinephrine. Call 911 if you believe that you or someone around you is experiencing anaphylaxis. Symptoms usually occur immediately after contact with the allergy in question and can include:
- trouble breathing
- slurred speech
- low pulse
- swelling in mouth and throat
- nausea and stomach pain
- facial swelling
- difficulty swallowing
Foods to avoid if you have an apple allergy
If you have an apple allergy related to a birch-pollen allergy you might be able to have apples that are cooked or processed. In some cases, the allergens in these cases die off when heated or pasteurized.
Be aware of any other allergies that could be linked. Some people who have an allergy to apples are also allergic to other fruits. Among these similar foods are:
- hazelnuts and other nuts
Those who have an apple allergy that is similar to a peach allergy should avoid all foods with ingredients from apples and peaches. The protein that causes the allergic reaction, or allergen, will make it through processing and is also found in juices. If you have this particular apple allergy you should avoid even processed apples or fruits in purees or other foods.
Outlook and prevention
Apple is not a common ingredient in non-food products, so your focus on managing your allergy is on what you eat. The best way to avoid an allergic reaction is to avoid the foods that trigger that reaction. Make sure you know the extent of your allergies and which apple foods to avoid. Certain apple allergies, like the birch-pollen one, can tolerate processed apples or apples as ingredients once heated.
If you believe you may have an apple allergy, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about what fruits and vegetables are safe for you to eat.
If you know that your allergy is severe, always carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you as a precaution.