Here’s Why You Get a Tingly Sensation When Eating Raw Fruits and Veggies

updated May 30, 2019
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It’s not quite an allergy to fruits and veggies, but it’s also not “not an allergy.”

If you’ve bitten into a fruit or veggie and felt a tingling sensation in your throat or your lips immediately getting ever-so-slightly swollen, know that it’s not in your head. It’s a seasonal allergic reaction to fruits and vegetables called “oral allergy syndrome.”

Chances are you haven’t heard of it because you’ve gone through life eating the fruits and veggies — like apples, carrots and bananas — without any major problems, reports NPR. But itching or swelling of the mouth, lip, tongue, or throat is very much a real allergic reaction and your body’s immune system is to blame.

Those who suffer from the condition, called OAS, are essentially allergic to plant pollen. This reaction manifests in response to fruits and vegetables since their proteins are often similar to pollen. When you feel that tingly feeling, it’s because your immune system makes a mistake — it thinks the proteins from fruits and veggies are the plant pollen.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

“We call it cross-reactivity,” says Dr. Carah Santos, an allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver, to NPR. “Your immune system sees something as looking very similar to something it already reacts to.”

What makes OAS tricky is that traditional allergy tests cannot detect it — those who get tested come back with negative results. So there’s no way to test which fruits and vegetables will trigger a response aside from monitoring what you eat and how your body reacts.

The general advice for people who suffer from the mild allergy is to avoid raw fruits and vegetables that trigger symptoms. But the good news is you don’t have to abstain entirely: Peeling or cooking the fruits and veggies is a safe way to consume them. You can also opt for canned versions or take an oral antihistamine medication to alleviate the symptoms.