Hay fever is becoming more and more common with 18 million Americans reporting they have symptoms, according to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). Over 20% of the UK population, some 10 million people are diagnosed with hay fever and the number is growing – this statistic from the NHS from 2019 so it’s likely much higher now. People who have never previously experienced any sneezing, snuffling and streaming eyes are getting hay fever for the first time in adulthood.
Hay fever can last from March to September, pollens from trees such as Birch, Hazel and Alder are the most common cause.
Mould spores and weeds can also cause hay fever. From May to July, grass and flowers are in profusion, so if you’re really unlucky and are allergic to grasses and trees you could be suffering from March to July. Not a pleasant thought.
Oral allergy syndrome – food and pollen
What I find even more interesting is that there could be a link between hay fever and vegetable and fruit allergies. I read a recent article entitled “Fruit and vegetable allergies soaring surpassing peanut allergies” by Jasmine Jafferali, Chicago Family Health Examiner, posted on LinkedIn Food Allergies Forum, which goes into detail about recent research findings in the US. It’s fascinating reading for anyone suffering from hay fever and multiple vegetable and fruit allergies and intolerances, as I do.
The article suggests links between hay fever triggers and fruit and vegetable sensitivity.
Is it an allergy or just pollen allergy syndrome?
You can be allergic to eating certain foods, and that can include many fruits and vegetables including: kiwi, banana, strawberries, celery and more. It’s less common than some of the other Top 14 (in the UK) or Top 9 (in the US) food allergies but foods outside the main allergens are on the increase and are often caused by fruits and vegetables. Is this linked to hay fever?
You can also have an itchy mouth, lips and tongue and dry irritated throat from eating certain fruits but not have any more serious reactions. This is oral allergy syndrome and is usually not serious.
Pollen and food cross reaction by season
This table is looking at UK seasons so these may vary across Europe, America and other continents. Pollen also varies from country to country, and the seasons are lengthening and beginning sooner due to warmer weather.
|Pollen||Weed/Tree||Foods cross reacting||Season|
|Ragweed||Weed||Melons, (Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew), bananas, cucumbers and zucchini (peppers), chamomile tea, dandelion, echinacea, sunflower seeds||August to October|
|Birch, Alder and Hazel||Tree||Potatoes, carrots, cherries, celery, apples, almond, aniseed, apple, apricot, carrot, celery, cherry, chestnut, dill, soya, fenugreek, fig, jackfruit, kiwi, mango, melon, mung beans, parsley, parsnip, peach, peanut, pear, persimmon, plum, poppy seeds, raspberry, strawberry, tomato, walnuts, pears, plums, peaches, parsnip, kiwi, hazelnuts and apricots.||March to June|
|Mugwort||Weed||Celery, carrots, various spices.||June to September|
|Grasses||Tomatoes, potatoes, peaches, oranges, melons||Mid May to July|
|Beech||Tree||Kiwi, pear, peach, plum, nectarine, apricots, cherries, tomato, celery, carrot, potato, parsnip, pepper, dill, cumin, peas, coriander, fennel, hazelnut, walnut, almonds, apples, lentils and green beans||March to May|
|Alder||Tree||Spring or Winter|
Many people, myself included, experience hay fever like symptoms year-round, and this can be caused by other allergies such as dust and mould. If it’s wet winter you could experience watering eyes, running nose and wheezing from January to December!
Getting tested for pollen allergies
It can be hard to find out exactly which pollen you are reacting to each hay fever season, but you can get allergy testing done. Ask your GP for a referral to an allergy specialist where they can do skin prick tests and blood tests to find out what you’re allergic to.
One day I think we’ll be able to get pollen reports on which pollen is high each day, not just a high pollen warning.
My experience with oral allergy syndrome
I have an intolerance to celery and tomatoes, which appears to span all four hay fever culprits in this list. I also have oral allergy syndrome itchy mouth, lips and tongue when I eat raw carrots, apples, cherries, plums, peaches, however, can tolerate them all cooked. I’m not entirely sure whether kiwi, banana and cucumber are causing me a problem and need to do some controlled food introductions to test this. Various spices could mean anything and I’d rather not consider this being another thing to avoid.
Food can also cross react with latex allergy
Various fruits can also cause issue for people with a latex allergy. If you do have a latex allergy you may also react to kiwi, banana, avocado, pepper, chestnut, figs, peach and tomato.
Can pets get hay fever?
Yes they can! Both dogs and cats can get hay fever. And they can’t really tell us how they’re feeling. Watch out for excessive licking or biting of their paws, scratching, red skin and irritation around the eyes and ears. They are particularly susceptible because many of them love leaping and bounding through long grass, where their faces are getting a direct hit from thousands of pollen particles.
Check out the Blue Cross website for advice.
Further research into hay fever
Check out the pollen.com website if you live in America. It details all the states and which pollen is most prevalent and when.
Read Cross Reactivity between aeroallergens and food allergies.
Do you cross react to fruit and pollen?
I would be really interested to hear from anyone who thinks this link could be real. Allergies and intolerances are on the increase, but no one knows why. Will we ever have the answers? or will we just find more and more unanswered questions? What do you think?
You may also be interested in reading
- Allergy, Oral Allergy Syndrome or Lipid Transfer Protein?
- Can you be allergic to Cucumber?
- Allergen and Pollen free plants for your home
Yes the Hayfever season has well and truly begun. For me it usually begins every year ( but only for the past five years) on my birthday June the 7th. Not a nice birthday present. This year it has arrived a little later. June 17th at 2.00 am to be precise !
I generally get the sniffles from beginning of June but then mid June it develops into an constant misery of tickly throat, dry itchy eyes, muggy head and a general feeling of being unwell. Have been trying Max Strength hayfever tablets which help a little but they never stop it completely and my moan is that they dont last for long enough. If I take one in the morning then I wake in the middle of the night needing my next dose.
Have today plastered Hay Max all over my eyes and nose and am going to change my pillow case every night when I go sleep in case it is covered in the offending pollen.
Hi Nic. I never knew you were a fellow hay fever sufferer. You always look so bright and breezy. Mine has not been as bad this year and seems to have stopped now – touch wood. Someone at my tennis club recently bought a either dehumidifier or an Ioniser – I can’t remember which. I’ll find out for you. She also got something from the pharmacy which is kind of inserted into each nostril at night. This has apparently really helped. I’ll try to find out what this is called for you too. How’s the hayfever now? I smile ever time I picture you with your mask on – sporting the cats smile and whiskers.
Alex Martin says
Try one teaspoon of LOCAL honey each day of the year BEFORE your havyfever season. It’s getting hard to get with the poor bees declining so rapidly but the theory is that this exposes you to all the pollen in your area in safe doses. This means that your immune system recognises the pollen proteins when they come round in season as it’s already used to it. Hopefully this means it won’t react. Basically hayfever is an over-reaction of the immune system to proteins it perceives as foreign invaders (like viruses) and tries to fight them off by sluicing them away with copious secretions. It needs to be reassured that these foreign invaders are friendly and to be welcomed rather than repelled.
Becky griffiths says
My hayfever is worst at Easter time, it’s the tree blossoms that affect me I think. I now don’t suffer at all in the summer.
I do however have slight allergies from eating apples, kiwis, cherries, hazelnuts, peaches and apricots, though it’s not as bad as it used to be. Basically just get a very tickly irriated throat, sometimes little white spots come up around my lips too.
In the last couple of years I have found I have a very bad reaction to peeling and chopping parsnips (and sometimes potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots too). It gives me the same reaction as hayfever – terrible tickly nose, lots of sneezing, then feeling a bit wheezy and headachey. I seem to be able to eat these foods without any problem, but its handling them raw that affect me. There’s definitely some kind of link with hayfever and foods!
Becky you could quite rightly pass food preparation over to someone else, in the interests of your health… if only that were possible. I used to be bad with apples and carrots when raw but could eat them cooked no problem. The cooking changes the food so it’s not irritating any more. My sypmtoms were just itchy mouth and lips and swelling lumps around my mouth. Not that nice but not so bad I stopped eating apples. I found if I cut them up into pieces and popped a bit in without it mashing on my lips it was much better.
Just seen this post so I’m a bit late to the party. I found this fascinating. I have hayfever and in particular struggle with tree polins but I am also allergic to apples, pears, cherries, apricots, peaches, plums and hazelnuts (swollen throat, lips, wheezing and difficulty breathing) and I sneeze if I’m peeling potatoes. So basically everything on the birch polin list.
Hi Lynette. I definite case of oral allergy syndrome, which is not quite so frightening as allergies but still unpleasant none the less. Interesting you have everything on the list. I have hayfever throughout the season but it’s worse now so I think grass is worse than trees pollen but I react to moulds too. Lovely! I have a big problem with celery, tomatoes and coriander. Sometimes cucumber but I eat it sometime without any problems. Just pray we don’t get ragweed in this country. They get this in the US and Canada and it’s supposed to be much worse than birch and grass pollen allergy wise.