If you’re allergic to stone fruits, or fruits containing pits, you might experience mild itchiness in your mouth or an upset stomach. For the most severe allergies, your body might respond in a way that needs emergency attention.
In all of these cases, your immune system overreacts to a substance that it identifies as a threat.
Read on to learn more about allergies to stone fruits and how they can be diagnosed and managed.
Fruits that have a hard seed, or pit, in the center are often called stone fruits. They’re also known as drupes. Some examples of stone fruits include:
You’ll typically notice allergy symptoms shortly after consuming a stone fruit, although in rare cases a reaction may occur up to an hour later.
The symptoms of the most common type of stone fruit allergy include itching and swelling after consuming raw stone fruits. This can occur in the following areas:
In more severe reactions, there may be an involvement of the skin, respiratory system, or digestive tract, which can include symptoms such as:
- itchy or runny nose
- skin rash
Most of the time, stone fruits that have been cooked, canned, or made into a juice or syrup don’t cause a reaction. However, for some people with severe stone fruit allergies, consuming any type of stone fruit product can cause a reaction.
The most severe type of allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. The symptoms of anaphylaxis typically occur within minutes of eating a food item and can include:
- flushed or pale skin
- hives and itching
- hypotension (low blood pressure)
- nausea or vomiting
- quick pulse that may be weak
- swelling of the airways, throat, or tongue that can cause breathing difficulties
Anaphylaxis is always a medical emergency and requires prompt intervention.
An allergic reaction happens because your body’s immune system mistakes components in the food as harmful and overreacts. This reaction leads to release of substances like histamine, which can cause allergy symptoms.
Allergic reactions to food can range in severity from mild to life-threatening. The most common reason for allergic reactions to stone fruits is oral allergy syndrome.
Oral allergy syndrome
If you have a stone fruit allergy, you may notice that your mouth or throat itches after eating the raw fruit. This is called oral allergy syndrome (OAS), also known as pollen-fruit or pollen-food syndrome. The symptoms of OAS are usually mild and disappear quickly once you’ve swallowed the food or are no longer in contact with it.
OAS is a type of secondary food allergy. Whereas primary allergies may develop very early in life, secondary allergies more often occur in children or adults who have a primary allergy to something like pollen or latex.
OAS occurs in people with pollen allergies. It happens because the proteins that are found in some raw fruits or vegetables closely resemble proteins found in pollen. Because of this, your immune system becomes confused and reacts to the fruit proteins. This can be referred to as cross-reactivity.
Allergies to specific types of pollen can lead to cross-reactivity to specific fruits or vegetables. Some types of pollen that are associated with OAS include:
- alder pollen
- birch pollen
- grass pollen
- mugwort pollen
- ragweed pollen
Allergy to birch or alder pollen
People with an allergy to alder pollen or birch pollen may experience OAS after eating a nectarine or similar fruit.
If you have an alder or birch pollen allergy, other foods that may cause OAS include:
- other types of fruits, such as apples, kiwi, and pears
- vegetables, such as carrots, celery, and raw potatoes
- nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts
- herbs or spices, such as anise, caraway, coriander, fennel, and parsley
In fact, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), up to 50 to 75 percent of adults with an allergy to birch tree pollen may experience OAS after consuming a food with cross-reactivity, such as stone fruits.
Similar to OAS, people who have an allergy to latex may experience a reaction after eating specific foods. This is because some proteins found in latex are similar to those found in some fruits.
Foods that have been determined to cause a high or moderate reaction in people with a latex allergy include things like apples, avocados, kiwis, and celery.
Your allergist will first take your medical history and perform a physical examination. They’ll ask you about your symptoms and what you had eaten when they appeared.
They may also order an allergy test to help make a diagnosis, though these tests can’t diagnose oral allergy syndrome. While most people with OAS will have a positive allergy test to pollen, food allergy testing is usually negative.
Allergy tests can consist of a skin-prick test or a blood test.
The skin-prick test allows a small amount of food allergen to go under your skin. If you have a primary allergy to that food, a skin reaction resembling a mosquito bite will appear. Skin-test results can be obtained in about 20 minutes.
Blood test for allergies
A blood test measures specific antibodies to a food allergen that are present in your bloodstream. A blood sample will be taken from a vein in your arm and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Results are typically available in about a week.
Oral food challenge
In cases where skin and blood tests are inconclusive, your allergist may want to perform an oral food challenge.
During this test, you’ll be asked to eat a very small amount of food that you may be allergic to. You’ll be observed for several hours to see if you have a reaction to the food. Oral food challenges are always performed under strict medical supervision in case of a severe reaction.
The main way to manage a stone fruit allergy and to prevent having another reaction is to avoid eating raw stone fruits. Other than that, planning ahead can help you if a reaction happens.
If you think you may have an allergy, find out for sure by seeing a doctor for a diagnosis. Meanwhile, some basic practices can help. Here are a few strategies:
Wash it off
Rinse off your produce. Rinse and dry fruits before eating them. If you’re allergic to proteins in the fruit, washing won’t change that. But it can reduce your chance of coming into contact with other allergens if you’re sensitive to them. Most fruits travel miles before they get to our kitchens, and even if you’re picking a piece of fruit directly off a tree in your yard, pollen and other particles might be resting on the fruit’s surface.
Wash your skin. If you’re experiencing a mild reaction on your skin, washing the areas of your face and hands where the fruit touched, and drinking some water, should help.
Avoid your allergy trigger
Eat cooked or prepared fruits. For many people, consuming cooked stone fruits doesn’t provoke an allergic reaction, so if you must eat stone fruit, be sure it’s cooked or canned.
Learn the ingredients. You should always check food labels for ingredients to see if a food item contains fruits you’re allergic to. While this can get tricky, you might be able to find particular brands you can rely on for their ingredients or manufacturing and packaging practices.
If you go out to eat, be sure to let your server know about your allergy so that they can speak to the chef.
An allergist or nutritionist can also work with you to provide tips for avoiding stone fruits as well as suggesting alternative fruits.
Don’t eat stone fruits when seasonal pollen counts are high
Know the types of pollen in your area. Because foods that cause OAS are associated with pollen allergies, you should aim to avoid eating stone fruits during times of the year when alder or birch pollen is prevalent. Eating stone fruits during this time could make your symptoms worse.
Weather forecasts in your local area may include measurements of pollen levels.
Have the right medication ready
Use the best antihistamine for you. If you do happen to come into contact with stone fruit, over-the-counter antihistamineproducts can help you to ease mild allergy symptoms. There are several different types of antihistamines available, and it helps to know which one will work best. Learn about antihistamine brands.
Get urgent care if you need to. If you have a severe allergic reaction to stone fruit, you’ll require emergency treatment with epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room.
Learn if you need an EpiPen and have one available. If you’re already aware that you can have a severe allergic reaction to stone fruit, your allergist may prescribe an epinephrine autoinjector (such as an EpiPen) that you can carry on you in case of a reaction.
If you experience an allergic reaction after eating a stone fruit, make an appointment with an allergist to receive a diagnosis if you can. With a proper diagnosis, you can more effectively avoid and manage allergic reactions to specific foods.