Many allergic to pollen food

Parents surprised to learn how common pollen allergy is

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Seems like some kids do whatever they can to avoid eating fruits and vegetables. But if your child swears that those carrots at dinner makes his tongue tingle, and he has hay fever, it may be time to call an allergist.

13-year-old Spencer Huie knows what happens when he takes a bite of mango.

"My tongue starts to sting and its like, its like a tingling sensation," he explained.

But Spencer isn't truly allergic to mango.  He's actually allergic to tree pollen.

"I was shocked," said his mom,  Antoinette Huie.

Spencer has Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome, an allergic reaction that affects the mouth, lips and throat.  Also known as Oral Allergy Syndrome, it's triggered by various raw fruits, vegetables and nuts with proteins similar to the ones in pollen.

Dr. Cascya Charlot with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says most parents are surprised to learn how common it is.

"Sixty to seventy percent of patients who have a seasonal allergy or hay fever also have this condition," said Charlot.

Children can develop it as early as kindergarten.  Common trigger foods include apple, celery, carrots melon, cherries, hazelnuts, even peanuts.  Dr. Jessica Savage, with the Department of Allergy and Immunology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, says symptoms often appear within seconds.

"Itching on the tongue, itching on the soft tissues of the mouth, and maybe even itching around the lips. And you may see some mild swelling or redness," said Savage.

Wile true Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome isn't considered life threatening, it's extremely important to rule out food allergies that could be severe.

"I've had situations where parents have disregarded a child's complaints of itching of the mouth because they think these kids are trying to get out of eating those particular foods," explained Charlot.

Proper diagnosis involves patient history, skin prick testing and sometimes blood work.  Many doctors also use component testing, a relatively new blood test that is FDA approved for peanuts and can rule out life-threatening food allergies.

"What it allows us to do is to identify the specific part of a food that a patient is allergic to," said Charlot.

For most, Oral Allergy Syndrome symptoms fade on their own in seconds or minutes.  Other forms of treatment include avoiding trigger foods, antihistamines or allergy shots. 

Savage adds, "Cooking the food typically breaks down the proteins that you're reacting to, and so that often takes away all of the symptoms."

By cutting out most fresh fruit, Spencer has avoided a flare-up.  His mom has this advice for parents.

"If you even have an inkling that something's wrong, definitely have it checked out," she said.

Experts say if your child complains of any of the symptoms, make an appointment with an allergist as soon as possible.

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