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When a Pollen Allergy Becomes a Food Allergy

When a Pollen Allergy Becomes a Food Allergy

Does fall hay fever have you sneezing so badly that tissue makers are sending you thank-you notes? Then don't be surprised if late-season watermelon and autumn's first juicy apples make your mouth itch or your nose drip. As many as half of all people with pollen allergies react to eating certain fruits and veggies or sipping herbal teas.

That's because some foods contain proteins that look—at least to your immune system—like the same pollen that clogs your nose and makes your eyes flood like you were at your daughter's wedding. If you love the offending food, cooking it often neutralizes the proteins. (We don't think broiled watermelon will tempt anyone's palate, but baked apples with cinnamon certainly will.) Also, let your doc know about your food-pollen cross-reaction: It's usually not a problem, but there's new evidence that about 1 in 50 people could experience a more severe allergy attack. And, of course, if you start to gasp and wheeze, get medical help pronto.

Some common cross-allergies: If fall ragweed gives you the sniffles, apples, bananas, melons, cucumber, chamomile tea, echinacea, honey, and nuts may, too. If you're allergic to bananas or latex, be alert when eating avocado or melon. Do cats make you sneeze? Okay, that's a trick question. We haven't heard of a feline-fava bean reaction. But, hey, as everyone with allergies knows, anything is possible.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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