Biting into a ripe strawberry can be a delightful experience. But if you have a strawberry allergy, eating these red berries can cause a range of symptoms. You may notice a rash, a strange feeling in your mouth, or even a more severe reaction like anaphylaxis. If you’re allergic to strawberries, you’ll have to avoid the fruit and possibly similar fruits to prevent an allergic reaction.
The symptoms of a food allergy can develop within a few minutes or up to two hours after eating a certain food.
Food allergy symptoms include:
- throat tightness
- itching or tingling mouth
- skin rashes, such as hives or eczema
- itchy skin
- stomach pains
You may be able to treat mild or moderate allergies with antihistamines. These are available over the counter and can reduce symptoms. However, over-the-counter (OTC) medications won’t help 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 at the same time and requires immediate emergency medical treatment.
The symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:
- tongue swelling
- blocked airway or swelling in the throat
- severe drop in blood pressure
- rapid pulse
- 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 always need to have one with you. An intolerance may still involve the immune system, but not IgEs, the type of antibody that can lead to anaphylaxis. Symptoms of an intolerance can be delayed and can take up to 72 hours to show up.
Fruit and vegetable allergies are still common, but they occur less often.
Food allergies occur when the immune system reacts to a food you’ve eaten. Or, in severe cases, a food you’ve touched. Your immune system mistakenly identifies that food as something bad, like bacteria or a virus. In response, your body creates the chemical histamine 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 doesn’t cause an allergic reaction. But, a food intolerance can cause symptoms similar to a food allergy.
Food intolerance can occur due to many factors, including food poisoning or lack of an enzyme that digests a certain component of the food. Your doctor can determine whether you have a food allergy or a food intolerance.
A family history of allergies, eczema, or asthma increases the chances you might have a food allergy. You can develop one at any time, though children have a higher rate of allergies than adults. However, children sometimes outgrow an allergy.
You can also develop a food allergy even if you don’t have a family history of allergies. Delayed introduction of allergenic foods to babies older than 7.5 months can actually increase risk of food allergies, so introduce between 5.5 and 7 months for protection.
If your child develops allergy symptoms after eating strawberries, eliminate the fruit from their diet and talk to your doctor.
Strawberries are members of the Rosaceae family. Other fruits in this family include:
If you have a known allergy to a fruit in this family, you could also have a strawberry allergy. Despite blackberries being in the Rosaceae family, no known cross-reactions have been reported among strawberry and blackberry allergies. Raspberries contain several known allergens and are therefore are more responsible for allergic reactions in this family of fruits.
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:
- itchy mouth
- scratchy 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 allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
The symptoms of oral allergy syndrome usually resolve when the raw fruit (or vegetable causing oral allergy syndrome) is swallowed or taken out of your mouth, but this isn’t always the case. If symptoms are severe or life-threatening, seek emergency medical treatment. Some people may be able to eat the fruit or vegetable if it’s cooked without having an allergic reaction, but you should speak to your doctor before trying this.
If you notice allergic symptoms after eating strawberries, eliminate them from your diet right away. This includes foods that contain strawberries in any form, including flavoring.
You may have a reaction to strawberries even if they aren’t on the food you eat. 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.
Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have a food allergy. Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and your family history. They may also perform some tests. Food allergy tests include:
- skin tests
- elimination diets
- blood tests
- oral food challenges
|Type of test||What to expect|
|skin test||Your doctor pricks your skin and exposes the suspected allergen to it. Your doctor will then 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 draws your blood and sends it to a laboratory. A technician at the laboratory tests your blood with specific foods and looks 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 then looks for a reaction. If you don’t react to the food, you may be able to continue eating it.|
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 them into your diet at some point to see if you still have the allergy. In this case, talk to your doctor about an oral food challenge.
Avoiding strawberries doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy other fruits. But, be mindful of the fruits related to strawberries that may also cause allergic reactions. Bananas, blueberries, and melons aren’t part of the Rosaceae family, so you may want to eat those fruits in place of strawberries.
If you can’t eat several fruits and vegetables because of allergies, ask your doctor if you should supplement your diet to ensure you’re getting all necessary vitamins and minerals.
Recent studies are looking at ways to breed hypoallergenic strawberries. Some studies show that breeds of strawberries without their red color may reduce allergic reactions. Someday you may be able to have certain strawberry varieties even if you have a strawberry allergy.