How to Recognize an Eggplant Allergy

Medically reviewed by Michael Charles, MD on April 7, 2017Written by Jerisha Parker Gordon

Overview

An eggplant allergy is rare, but it’s possible. Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family.

Though it’s widely regarded as a vegetable, eggplant is actually a fruit. It’s commonly used as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes, such as eggplant burgers. Many types of cuisine work eggplant into the mix, so it’s important to be on the lookout.

Symptoms of an eggplant allergy are similar to those of other food allergies. Most food allergies develop during childhood, but they may also present later in life. Up to 6 percent of children and 4 percent of adults have at least one food allergy. You can become allergic to eggplant even if you’ve previously eaten it without issue.

Eggplant allergy symptoms

The symptoms of an eggplant allergy usually resemble those of other food allergies. Symptoms include:

  • hives
  • itchy or tingly lips, tongue, or throat
  • coughing
  • stomach pain or cramping
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

In most cases, people who have an eggplant allergy will experience symptoms within minutes of ingesting the fruit. Sometimes, a few hours may pass before noticeable symptoms appear.

In severe cases, eggplant allergy may lead to anaphylaxis. This is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • difficulty breathing
  • throat swelling
  • tongue swelling
  • difficulty swallowing
  • facial swelling
  • dizziness (vertigo)
  • weak pulse
  • shock
  • feeling weak
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • rash

Anaphylaxis rarely occurs with eggplant allergies, but it’s possible. If you begin having symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. If you have an epinephrine auto-injector (Epi-Pen), you should administer the medication right away while you wait for help. Signal for help if you can’t inject the medication yourself.

What to look for: Kids and food allergies »

What to do if you’re having an allergic reaction to eggplant

You can typically treat a minor allergic reaction with an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

If this is your first time experiencing symptoms after eating eggplant, see your doctor. They can perform a blood test to confirm your allergy and provide guidance on how to handle future contact with eggplant.

Seek emergency medical attention if you have symptoms of anaphylaxis. In most cases of anaphylaxis, symptoms develop within minutes of being exposed to an allergen. Anaphylaxis can be life threatening if left untreated.

If someone near you is in anaphylaxis, you should:

  • Call your local emergency services ASAP.
  • Check to see if they have an epinephrine auto-injector (Epi-Pen), and help them inject the medication, if needed.
  • Remain calm. This will help them remain calm, too.
  • Assist them out of any restricting clothing, such as a tight jacket, so that they may breathe easier.
  • Help them lie flat on their back.
  • Lift their feet about 12 inches and then cover them with a jacket or blanket.
  • If they begin vomiting, help turn them onto their side.
  • Be careful not to lift their head, especially if they’re having trouble breathing.
  • Be prepared to perform CPR, if needed.
  • Avoid giving them any medications, unless they have an Epi-Pen. Also avoid offering anything to eat or drink.

If you’ve never had an allergic reaction to eggplant before now, your doctor will prescribe an Epi-Pen. Keep it on hand at all times in case of an emergency.

Q:

What else can I eat in place of eggplant and other nightshades?

A:

For people who are allergic to nightshades fruits and vegetables, there is a variety of substitute foods. Enjoy root vegetables, radishes, zucchini, celery, yellow squash, or portobello mushrooms instead.

Michael Charles, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Foods to avoid

If you think you’re developing an eggplant allergy, see your doctor. They can confirm whether you’re having an allergic reaction to eggplant or if you’re symptoms are caused by a different underlying condition.

If your doctor confirms your eggplant allergy, you should remove all traces of the allergen from your diet. This will help prevent future allergic reactions.

People with eggplant allergies should also avoid coming into contact with other nightshades. They may also trigger an allergic reaction.

Nightshades include:

  • tomatoes
  • tomatillos
  • white potatoes
  • peppers, such as bell, banana, and chili
  • red pepper seasonings, paprika, cayenne, and chili powder
  • pimentos
  • pepinos
  • tomarillos
  • goji berries
  • ground cherries

Salicylate, a naturally-occurring chemical found in eggplants, may also be an issue. It can also be found in the following fruits and vegetables:

  • apples
  • avocados
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • grapes
  • grapefruit
  • prunes
  • cauliflower
  • cucumbers
  • mushrooms
  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • broccoli

For some people, these foods may provoke a similar allergic response. You may want to avoid them.

Salicylate is also one of the main ingredients in the over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever aspirin (Ecotrin). Talk with your doctor about a better OTC option for you. The doctor may recommend ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).

Read food labels. When dining out, always confirm that anything you order doesn’t contain any potential or confirmed allergens. Always ask questions about any food or drink you’re given to ensure that it’s safe to eat.

Food substitutes

Although white potatoes are off the table, you should be safe to eat sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a part of the morning glory family.

Black, white, and pink peppercorns may serve as a suitable replacement for red pepper seasonings. They’re taken from a flowering vine in the Piperaceae family.

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