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Do I Have a Strawberry Allergy?

Overview

Biting into a ripe strawberry can be a delightful experience. If you have a strawberry allergy, however, consuming these red berries can cause a range of symptoms. You may notice a strange feeling in your mouth, a rash, or even more severe reactions, such as anaphylaxis. If you’re allergic to strawberries, you’ll have to completely avoid the fruit and possibly other fruits with similar characteristics to prevent an allergic reaction.

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Symptoms

Symptoms

The symptoms of a food allergy can develop within a few minutes or several hours after consuming a particular food. Some people may not develop symptoms until a few days after eating the food.

Food allergy symptoms include:

  • throat tightness
  • itching or tingling in the mouth
  • skin rashes, such as hives or eczema
  • itchy skin
  • wheezing
  • a cough
  • congestion
  • nausea
  • stomach pains
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness

You may be able to treat mild or moderate allergies with antihistamines. These are available over the counter and can reduce symptoms.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications will not be effective if you have a severe allergic reaction.

A severe allergy to strawberries may result in a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis causes several symptoms to occur simultaneously and requires immediate emergency medical treatment.

The symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:

  • swelling of the tongue
  • a blocked airway or swelling in the throat
  • a severe drop in blood pressure
  • a rapid pulse
  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • a loss of consciousness

Anaphylaxis must be treated with epinephrine. This can be administered with an auto-injector, such as an EpiPen. If you have a severe allergy, you’ll need to carry the auto-injector with you at all times.

Incidence

Incidence

An allergic reaction to strawberries means you have a food allergy. Food allergies are somewhat common. They affect 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3 and up to 3 percent of adults. The most common food allergens are:

Fruit and vegetable allergies occur less often but are still common.

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Causes

Causes

Food allergies occur when the immune system reacts to a particular food you’ve eaten, or, in severe cases, touched. Your immune system mistakenly identifies that food as something bad, such as a bacteria or a virus. Your body creates the chemical histamine in response and releases it into the bloodstream. Histamine can cause many symptoms that range in severity.

A food allergy isn’t the same thing as a food intolerance. Food intolerance generally doesn’t involve your immune system. You may have some similar symptoms as a food allergy, even if it isn’t an allergic reaction.

Food intolerance can occur due to many factors, including food poisoning or lacking a particular enzyme that digests the food. Your doctor can determine whether you have a food allergy or a food intolerance.

Learn more: Food allergy vs. sensitivity: What’s the difference? »

Risk factors

Risk factors

A family history of allergies, eczema, or asthma increases the chances you might experience an allergy. You can develop a food allergy at any time, though children have a higher rate of allergies than adults. Children can sometimes outgrow an allergy, but this isn’t always the case.

Infants shouldn’t eat strawberries until they’re at least 1-year-old as a precaution. If your child develops any allergy symptoms after eating strawberries, eliminate the fruit from their diet and talk to your doctor.

You can develop a food allergy even if you don’t have a family history of an allergy. This is why you should use caution when trying new foods and when introducing new foods to an infant or toddler.

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Cross-reactive foods

Cross-reactive foods

Strawberries are members of the Rosaceae family. Other fruits in this family include:

  • pears
  • peaches
  • cherries
  • apples
  • blackberries

If you have a known allergy to a fruit in this family, you may also have a strawberry allergy. About 50 percent of people with an allergy to a fruit in this family might have a cross-reaction to another fruit in this family.

An example of a cross-reactive allergy is oral allergy syndrome. Some people develop this condition as older children, teens, and adults. The symptoms include:

  • itching in the mouth
  • scratchiness in the throat
  • swelling in and around the mouth and throat

This allergy is linked with pollen allergies. Strawberries and other fruits in the Rosaceae family are linked to birch pollinosis.

The symptoms of oral allergy syndrome usually resolve when the raw fruit or vegetable is swallowed or taken out of your mouth, but this isn’t always the case. If the symptoms are severe or life-threatening, get emergency medical treatment. Some people may be able to eat the fruit or vegetable if it’s cooked without experiencing an allergic reaction, but you should speak to your doctor before trying this.

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Avoid

Foods to avoid

If you notice allergic symptoms after eating strawberries, eliminate them from your diet immediately. This includes foods that contain strawberries in any form, including flavoring.

You may have a reaction to strawberries even if they aren’t directly on the food you consume. For example, a strawberry used to decorate a piece of chocolate cake may result in an allergic reaction if you eat the cake, even if you didn’t eat the strawberry.

You may also develop food allergy symptoms from fruits related to the strawberry. If you experience symptoms after eating fruits such as peaches, apples, or blackberries, eliminate them from your diet as well.

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Seeking help

Seeking Help

Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have a food allergy. The doctor will talk to you about your symptoms, your family history, and they may perform some tests. Food allergy tests include:

  • skin tests
  • elimination diets
  • blood tests
  • oral food challenges
Type of test What it does
skin test Your doctor pricks your skin and exposes the suspected allergen to it. Your doctor will look for a reaction on your skin.
elimination diet This test requires you to take certain foods out of your diet and add them back in after a few weeks.
blood test Your doctor will draw your blood and send it to a laboratory. A technician at the laboratory will test your blood with specific foods and look for certain antibodies in the blood.
oral food challenge This test requires you to consume small amounts of a suspected allergen under a doctor’s supervision. The doctor will look for a reaction. If you don’t react to the food, you may be able to continue eating the food.

Outlook

Outlook

Living with a strawberry allergy can be inconvenient, but you shouldn’t experience allergy symptoms if you avoid strawberries and other trigger foods.

Strawberries are used to flavor many foods, so you’ll need to check ingredient labels closely to make sure they aren’t in processed food. When you go out to eat, let your server know about your allergy and make sure anyone preparing food for you is aware of your allergy.

Depending on the severity of your strawberry allergy, you may want to reintroduce it into your diet at some point to determine if your allergy remains. In this case, talk to your doctor about an oral food challenge.

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Prevention

Food substitutes

Avoiding strawberries doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy other fruits. If you don’t experience symptoms from other fruits, you’re free to enjoy them. Be mindful that some fruits are related to strawberries and may cause allergic reactions. Fruits such as bananas and melons aren’t part of the Rosaceae family, so you may want to incorporate those into your diet in place of strawberries.

If you’re unable to consume several fruits and vegetables because of allergies, talk to your doctor about whether you should supplement your diet to ensure you’re getting necessary vitamins and minerals.

Current studies are looking into ways to breed hypoallergenic strawberries. Some studies show that breeds of strawberries without their red color may reduce allergic reactions. Therefore, someday you may be able to have certain strawberry varieties again even if you currently have a strawberry allergy.

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