Yes, you can be allergic to avocados. In fact, you can be allergic to avocados in not just one, but two ways: you might have an oral allergy to avocados, or you might have a latex allergy.
An oral avocado allergy is triggered when you eat avocado and your body treats the food as an invader, alerting your immune system. Your body reacts with mild to severe allergy symptoms, such as itching of your lips, mouth, and throat. You could have an oral avocado allergy if you are also allergic to birch pollen.
You’re much more likely to react to avocados if you also are allergic to latex (and vice versa). Latex and avocado allergies are an example of cross-reactivity. People allergic to latex may also be sensitive to bananas, kiwis, chestnuts, and papayas. However, if you’re allergic to latex and have a reaction to one of these foods, you could be reacting to the latex in the gloves of a food preparer, not the food itself!
Symptoms of latex-avocado allergy include swelling of the lips, sneezing, itchy eyes, and stomach discomfort, including vomiting. You also could have systemic reactions, including hives, and anaphylactic response, like swelling of the airways and difficulty breathing. A reaction this serious is very rare from an avocado allergy, but if it happens, get to a doctor right away or call 911.
If you’ve been handling avocados and you feel symptoms of an allergic reaction on your skin, it’s possible the pesticides and other crop chemicals on the surface of the avocado are what is bothering you. It might help to wash the avocado with a food-safe wash designed to remove chemicals. Choosing organic avocados, which haven’t been exposed to chemicals, can prevent this reaction.
There isn’t a skin test for avocado allergy, but you might want to get a skin test for latex allergy. If your symptoms aren’t serious, an over-the-counter antihistamine might make you feel more comfortable. If your skin is irritated, over-the-counter cortisone cream may help.
However, the best way to avoid triggering an allergic reaction to avocados is to simply avoid them.
Avocados don’t just limit themselves to guacamole and California rolls. You can find them in all sorts of unexpected places. This can include dishes where avocados might not seem like a likely ingredient. For example:
- Vegan and paleo recipes sometimes use avocado to add creaminess, since those diets avoid dairy products.
- It’s even used as a substitute for butter or other fats in some recipes.
- In baked goods, avocado is said to provide a fluffy texture; it’s even used in some chocolate chip cookie and brownie recipes!
Some cosmetics like lotions and shampoos use avocado, since its high level of fat adds to the moisturizing qualities of these products. A reaction to avocado used in cosmetics is unlikely, but if you experience an allergic reaction, check the ingredient list for avocados.
If you’re an avocado aficionado and are disappointed to find yourself allergic, there are plenty of substitutes. The most commonly recommended substitution is cooked (and cooled) chayote squash. Chayote squash doesn’t have much flavor, so it mixes well with garlic, tomatoes, onion, and lime to make a delicious quasi-guacamole.
If it’s the creamy green look you’re after, try pureeing green peas for spreads or another fresh take on guacamole. Cooked, pureed asparagus and broccoli are similar substitutes, but they do have a much stronger flavor. To substitute for avocado’s salty taste in salads or sandwiches, try marinated, sliced hearts of palm or artichoke hearts.