Anyone allergic to birch and other tree pollen often responds to certain foods due to a cross-reaction.
This cross-reaction (or pollen-associated food allergy) can be explained by the fact that pollen and food allergens are similar in structure and so are mistaken for each other by the immune system. Sufferers generally have mild symptoms such as itching, redness and mild swelling in the mouth and throat.
What is a cross-reaction?
In this form of food allergy, the respiratory tract (nose, lungs) first becomes sensitised to birch pollen, for example. Because the protein structures of inhalation and food allergens are similar, this results in a cross-reaction, or pollen-associated food allergy.
Birch pollen-nut-pip fruit or mugwort-celery spice syndrome are common examples of a cross-reaction. Therefore someone who has become sensitised to birch pollen may also have an allergic reaction to apples and nuts and vice versa.
There are other respiratory tract allergens apart from pollen that may cause a cross-reaction to foods, e.g. latex (natural rubber), animal allergens (e.g. cats, birds) and house dust mites.
How can a cross-reaction be identified?
Sufferers from pollen allergy who experience a tingling in the palate, burning and itching in the mouth area and lips or even develop swelling affecting the face when eating certain foods should consider that they may have a cross-reaction.
How can they be prevented?
Anyone who notices tingling/burning in the mouth or throat should no longer consume the food concerned. Admittedly, a lot of proteins are destroyed by cooking and heating and the food can be eaten again. A frequent recommendation is to eat only small amounts of the food in question. Occasionally pollen therapy by means of desensitisation will also relieve the food allergy.
What are the most common cross-reactions?
Around 70 per cent of people who suffer from tree pollen allergies are found to have cross-reactions with foods. Cross-reactions are less common with other types of pollen and respiratory tract allergens. The following are typical:
Stone and pip fruit (apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, etc.), hazelnut, walnut, almonds, tomatoes, carrots, celery, mango, avocado, fennel, kiwi fruit, lychee
Celery, carrots, fennel, artichokes, camomile, pepper, mustard, dill, parsley, coriander, caraway, aniseed, sunflower seeds.
Prawns, lobster, langoustine, crab, snails
Avocado, bananas, sweet chestnut (vermicelli, roasted), kiwi fruit, papaya, figs, paprika
Chicken eggs (yolk)
- The booklet "Allergies – simple to explain" is available in English
- For several information go to "Anaphylaxis" and "Anaphylaxis check"
- Emergency allergy cards and App: ehether in haptic form or electronic form
- Other app for smartphones: e-symptoms (in German, French, Italian and English)
- Education (in German) and workshops (German and French) on the subject "Anaphylaxis"
- Experts on the aha!infoline will be happy to answer personal queries: Monday to Friday, 08.30–12.00.
- Products and services awarded the Swiss Allergy Label – an added benefit for sufferers.
- aha!shop: other booklets and factsheets provides detailed information and are available in German, French, Italian
- aha!kinderlager for children with allergies aged between 8 and 12 years (in German or French)
- aha!jugendcamp for youngsters aged between 13 and 16 years (in German or French)
- Other education and courses on the subjects "Neurodermatitis", "Asthma" (in German)
- We value your opinion. Or would you like to exchange experiences with other sufferers? (Both sides in German)
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