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Does your child have oral allergy syndrome?

File photo of a child eating fruit.

May 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some children do whatever they can to avoid eating fruits and vegetables. But if your child swears that those carrots at dinner are making their tongue tingle and they have hay fever, it may be time to call an allergist - however, it may not be a food allergy.

Pollen food allergy syndrome, an allergic reaction that affects the mouth, lips and throat, is also known as oral allergy syndrome. Dr. Cascya Charlot with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says most parents are surprised to learn how common it is.

"Sixty to 70 percent of patients who have a seasonal allergy or hay fever also have this condition," Charlot says.

Children can develop it as early as kindergarten. Common trigger foods include apple, celery, carrots, melon, cherries, hazelnuts and peanuts.

Some of the symptoms are itching on the tongue, itching on the soft tissues of the mouth and maybe itching around the lips. There may be some mild swelling or redness.

While true pollen food allergy syndrome isn't considered life threatening, it's extremely important to rule out food allergies that could be severe.

"I've had situations where parents have disregarded a child's complaints of itching of the mouth because they think these kids are trying to get out of eating those particular foods," Charlot says.

Proper diagnosis involves patient history, skin prick testing and sometimes blood work. Many doctors also use component testing, a relatively new blood test that's FDA approved for peanuts and can rule out life-threatening food allergies.

"What it allows us to do is to identify the specific part of a food that a patient is allergic to," Charlot says.

For most, oral allergy symptoms fade on their own. Cooking the food typically breaks down the proteins that children are reacting to and so that often takes away all of the symptoms.

Treatment for oral allergies include avoiding trigger foods, antihistamines or allergy shots. Experts say make an appointment with an allergist as soon as possible if your child complains of any of these symptoms.