What You Should Know About a Banana Allergy

Medically reviewed by Xixi Luo, MD on April 6, 2017Written by Daniela Ginta on April 6, 2017

Overview

Bananas are a popular fruit. They make a healthy snack, are great for breakfast, and they’re delicious in smoothies. Most people think of bananas as one of the first solid foods you can feed a baby, too. However, some people may want to avoid bananas altogether.

A banana allergy is often connected to a latex allergy. This is because some of the proteins in the rubber trees that produce latex are known to cause allergies, and they are similar to the proteins found in some nuts and fruits, including bananas. This syndrome is known as latex-food syndrome or latex-fruit allergy.

Read on to learn more about banana allergies and what to do if you or your child has one.

Incidence

It’s extremely rare for a baby to have a strong allergic reaction to bananas. Be cautious if you have food allergies in your family, though. While bananas aren’t at the top of the list, food allergies are the most common cause of anaphylaxis in children.

Children who have nut allergies may react to eating or touching raw bananas. Young children often outgrow food allergies, so discuss how to check for tolerance with your pediatrician.

If you’ve acquired a food allergy later in life, however, it’s usually here to stay.

Relation to latex

A banana allergy can appear as a consequence of a latex allergy. Few people are born allergic to latex, but you can develop it later in life due to exposure. This risk is increased certain people, including:

  • babies with spina bifida or other birth defects that require multiple surgeries using medical equipment containing latex
  • people who work in fields where latex gloves or other latex objects are used on a regular basis
  • people who work in the latex industry

The most frequent signs of latex allergy include itchiness, redness, and local swelling. People can also react to the powder used in latex gloves even without direct contact.

Risk factors and cross-reactive foods

Banana trees and rubber trees have similar allergy-causing proteins, so people who are allergic to latex may also react to bananas. They may also react to other foods that contain similar allergy-causing components. This is called cross-reactivity.

If you notice signs of a latex allergy, remove bananas from your fruit basket. The same goes for avocadoes, kiwis, and chestnuts. These foods can trigger reactions in people with a latex-fruit allergy.

People who have pollen allergies can often react to certain foods, too. Usually this kind of reaction develops in older children, teens, and adults. It’s much less frequent in babies and toddlers.

Symptoms of banana allergy

The first signs of allergy can appear very soon after eating or tasting bananas, depending on the severity of your allergy. Some people also have reactions from skin contact with bananas, including the banana peel. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
  • hives
  • swollen, itchy, or red eyes
  • runny nose or sneezing
  • shortness of breath
  • abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea

Complications

In some severe cases, people who have a latex-banana allergy can experience anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis are serious and require immediate attention. They include:

  • hives and itching
  • flushed skin
  • swollen tongue
  • closing of the airways, which causes wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • swollen throat and hoarse voice
  • a drop in blood pressure (anaphylactic shock)
  • abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • dizziness or fainting

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

Read more: Timeline of an anaphylactic reaction »

Treatment

If you have a mild reaction, an over-the-counter antihistamine may be enough to counteract immediate allergy symptoms such as itchiness, runny eyes and nose, and hives. Often these symptoms can disappear without any treatment.

Some people may develop anaphylaxis after eating bananas. If your allergy is this severe, your doctor will prescribe an epinephrine pen (EpiPen) to carry with you at all times.

If you suspect that your child reacts to bananas, see your doctor right away to a get a referral to an allergist.

What to avoid

If you have a banana allergy, follow these tips to stay safe and healthy.

  • Avoid anything with bananas, including flavored products such as food, medication, or lip balm.
  • Always check the ingredients of smoothies and raw healthy desserts because bananas are typically used in these dishes.
  • Avoid other cross-reactive foods, including avocadoes, chestnuts, kiwi, apples, carrots, celery, papaya, potatoes, tomatoes, and melons.
  • If you’re sensitive to bananas and latex, avoid contact with latex-based objects, including balloons, fitness equipment, gloves, condoms, and dental dams.
  • Avoid certain toys and pacifiers that can also contain latex.

Food substitutes

Cooking bananas may deactivate the allergy-causing protein, which may make cooked bananas safe to eat. However, you should discuss if it is safe to eat bananas with your doctor. If your allergy is severe, it’s best to steer clear of bananas entirely.

Safe alternatives include:

  • berries
  • oranges
  • pumpkin and squashes, either baked or used in desserts and smoothies
  • cooked sweet potatoes and yams

If you have multiple food sensitivities, your doctor will refer you to an allergy specialist. This doctor will run a comprehensive test to identify your allergies.

Outlook

People with a banana-latex allergy should avoid bananas and forgo any latex-containing objects. Read labels or ask about an ingredients list before you eat anything, including flavored medication. Avoid even touching bananas, including the peel, and also skip on the dessert if you’re not sure about your reaction to cooked banana.

People with a banana allergy often have other sensitivities. See your doctor for a comprehensive allergic profile so you know what to avoid, and then stock up on plenty of safe, yummy alternatives.

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