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 January 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.
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