Posted by & filed under Allergies.

Ah, spring. The grass is greening, the pear and cherry trees are blooming, everything seems fresh and vibrant…except your head. You’re feeling cranky and irritated by all the sneezing and that puffy, stuffy sensation that won’t go away.

Many spring allergies are caused by trees, which start pollinating anytime from January to April, depending on the climate and location. Grasses are also a big factor in the allergy picture, as are dampness and mold.

And with all the above comes a host of potential problems, among them itching, burning eyes; congestion or runny nose; sneezing; fatigue; and headache.

All that, you may already know. But a surprise variable could be making your spring allergies worse: ordinarily healthful, wholesome fresh foods.

Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) is a condition most allergy sufferers are not aware of, yet it’s present in up to 70 percent of people with pollen allergies. OAS is caused by cross-reactivity between proteins in fresh fruits and vegetables and pollens.

So what does that mean for you during peak spring allergy season? Simply put, eating certain raw fruits and vegetables can actually make your symptoms worse.

When the allergic individual eats an offending fruit or vegetable, symptoms such as stinging, itching, burning, tingling and swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat can make themselves felt. Fortunately, these effects usually only last seconds to a few minutes and turn into anything more serious (although in isolated cases symptoms can progress to a more severe stage).

In people who have an allergy to these pollens, eating the following fruits and vegetables has been shown to trigger symptoms of OAS:

  • Birch (tree): potatoes, carrots, cherries, celery, apples, pears, plums, peaches, parsnip, kiwi, hazelnuts, apricots.
  • Grasses: tomatoes, potatoes, peaches.
  • Ragweed (weed): melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew), bananas, cucumbers, zucchini.
  • Mugwort (weed): celery, carrots, various spices.

Now here’s the good news. You can still enjoy your favorite nutritious foods in the spring—just cook them first. That’s right, the proteins in the foods that can cause OAS are rendered harmless by cooking them. That means that while a raw apple or tomato may be troublesome, applesauce or tomato sauce will leave an OAS sufferer symptom-free.

And of course, don’t forget there are always actions you can take to minimize allergy symptoms caused by environmental exposure to pollens.

  • Keep windows closed to prevent pollen from drifting in. Buy HEPA air filters for your bedroom.
  • Minimize activity during the hours when pollen is usually released, between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • Keep your car windows closed when traveling.
  • Stay indoors on days when the pollen count is reported to be high or during windy conditions.
  • Take a vacation during the height of the allergy season to an area with low relative pollen activity, such as the beach.
  • Avoid mowing the lawn and avoid freshly cut grass.
  • Machine dry bedding and clothing. Pollen may collect in laundry if it is hung outside to dry.
  • Take a shower and rinse your hair after returning home from the outdoors and before bed.

In addition, allergy sufferers have many options from the world of herbal and dietary supplements. Ingredients in several formulas in my office at the Park Avenue Center for Wellbeing include stinging nettle, bromelain, quercetin, vitamin C, and fish oils. Please contact me at for details.

Finally, don’t forget acupuncture. My patients have found the allergy season much easier to bear with the help of acupuncture, which can both relieve symptoms and make the immune system’s response much less uncomfortable.

Acupressure-to-Go is a safe, simple way to take advantage of the Bladder 2 acupuncture point, which is good for allergy relief: Press your fingers into the inside corner of each eyebrow. Hold for a while and repeat as necessary.

Meet this spring armed with knowledge and natural ammunition against allergens—and reclaim your joy in the season!


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Accessed November 26, 2010.

Sampson, HA. “Adverse Reactions to Foods.” In: Adkinson, NF, Yunginger, JW, Busse, WW, et al, Eds. Middleton’s Allergy Principles and Practice. 6th edition. Philadelphia: Mosby Publishing, 2003:1619-1643.

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