How Common Is a Strawberry Allergy?
The berry fruits called strawberries are very popular all over the world. It might be hard to resist a fresh ripe strawberry and there is no need to! Strawberries can provide many health benefits, such as preventing cancer, protecting your heart, lowering your blood pressure, and increasing HDL (good type) cholesterol.
Unless, you have a strawberry allergy. If you do, eating them will trigger an unpleasant reaction in your body. For instance, you may develop a skin rash or have abnormal sensations in the mouth. But sometimes, the reaction can be severe and even life-threatening – it’s called anaphylaxis. People allergic to strawberries should avoid these berries in their diet to prevent allergy symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of a Strawberry Allergy?
If you are allergic to strawberries, the symptoms may occur soon after you eat the berry (within a few minutes) or it may take up to two hours until the reaction hits.
Mild and moderate symptoms usually include itching or tingling in the mouth, itchy skin and rash (eczema or hives), throat tightness, wheezing, coughing, nasal congestion, nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, as well as dizziness and lightheadedness.
You can reduce these allergy symptoms using antihistamines, that are available over the counter. However, over-the-counter allergy treatments cannot help with a severe reaction to a strawberry.
If you notice the symptoms of anaphylaxis after eating strawberries, you should seek for an immediate emergency treatment, which involves an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and a follow-up medical care. If your doctor prescribes you an epinephrine auto-injector, make sure to always carry it with you, in case of an emergency.
An anaphylactic reaction causes symptoms like swelling of the tongue, swelling in the throat, blocked airways, severely low blood pressure, accelerated heartbeat, dizziness, and fainting.
Not any reaction to strawberries indicates an allergy. Some people may also have a strawberry intolerance that doesn’t involve the immune system. The symptoms of food intolerance may occur up to 72 hours after a person eats the food.
How Common Is a Strawberry Allergy?
An allergy to strawberry is a type of food allergies. Food allergies in general affect up to 8 percent of children under 3 years of age, as well as up to 9 percent of adults.
What Is the Cause of a Strawberry Allergy?
An allergic reaction to a strawberry or any other food is a result of the immune system’s overreaction that leads to the release of histamine in the bloodstream. Histamine is a chemical responsible for many allergy symptoms that may range from mild to severe. You can trigger your food allergy by eating the food you are sensitive to or, in some cases, just touching it.
It is important to see the difference between food allergies and food intolerance, especially when they are causing similar symptoms.
There are several factors that can lead to food intolerance, such as food poisoning and lack of an enzyme that digests a certain component contained in the food.
Consult with your doctor to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Who Is at Risk for Strawberry Allergy?
Various factors can increase a person’s risk for developing a strawberry allergy, such a family history of allergies, eczema, or asthma. Food allergy may affect you at any age, but they are more likely to appear in children. In some cases, kids can outgrow their food allergies.
Apart from a family history of allergies, the risk of food allergies can also be increased by delayed introduction of allergenic foods to babies. To protect your child from a food allergy, make sure to introduce common food allergens between 5.5 to 7 months of age.
If eating strawberries causes your child to experience allergy symptoms, you should eliminate this berry from their diet and arrange a visit to your doctor.
Which Allergenic Foods Are Similar to Strawberries?
Strawberries belong to the Rosaceae family, which also includes cherries, raspberries, blackberries, pears, peaches, and apples. People allergic to strawberries can develop a cross-reaction to some of the fruits in this family, and vice versa.
While there haven’t been any reports of cross-reactions between strawberry and blackberry allergies, raspberries contain several allergens that may be responsible for a cross-reactive allergy among fruits in the Rosaceae family.
Oral allergy syndrome is a common type of cross-reactive allergies. It may affect older children, teens, and adults. The typical signs of oral allergy syndrome include itching in the mouth, scratching in the throat, and swelling in the mouth and throat.
Usually, it is enough to swallow the food or take out of your mouth to resolve the reaction. However, if the symptoms are severe, you may need an emergency medical treatment.
In some cases, cooking the contaminated fruit or vegetable helps to remove the allergens, making it safe for an allergic person. Make sure to discuss this with your doctor first though.
Which Foods Should You Avoid If You’re Allergic to Strawberries?
People with an allergy to strawberries should avoid eating these berries and any food containing them to prevent an allergic reaction. This also applies to strawberry flavorings.
Strawberries can also contaminate other foods and cause you to have a reaction, even if you didn’t eat the berry itself. For example, this may happen when strawberries are used as a decoration for cakes or other desserts.
As mentioned earlier, fruits related to strawberry (e.g. peaches, raspberries, or apples) can also trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Therefore, you need to be cautious when eating those.
How Do You Get a Diagnosis?
If you think that you may be allergic to strawberries, you should see a specialist. Based on your family history, your symptoms and allergy testing, the doctor will make a proper diagnosis. There are four different food allergy tests, available nowadays.
A skin test involves pricking the surface of your skin and exposing this area to a tiny amount of the allergen. If your skin develops a red, itchy bump at the affected site, you do have an allergy.
Speaking of blood testing, these tests help to determine the levels of antibodies in the blood. If their levels are higher than they should be, it means you are allergic.
Another type of allergy testing is called an oral food challenge. During this test, a patient consumes small amounts of the allergen under close monitoring of the doctor. If your body develops the reaction, you have an allergy. Otherwise, there may be another cause of your symptoms.
Finally, some doctors recommend following an elimination diet to determine an allergy. This involves eliminating certain foods from the diet for the period of a few weeks. After that, the food should be re-introduced into the diet. If your body develops an abnormal reaction, this is likely to indicate an allergy.
What Can You Replace Strawberries with?
Even if you are allergic to strawberries, there are still many fruits you can enjoy. However, you should be careful when eating fruits from the same family as strawberries. Worth mentioning that fruits like blueberries, bananas and melons don’t belong to the Rosaceae family, which means you can eat those without having an allergic reaction.
If you have multiple fruits and vegetable allergies, you may need to be taking additional supplements to make sure your body is getting necessary vitamins and minerals found in fruits.
Nowadays, experts are talking about the possibilities to breed hypoallergenic strawberries. According to some studies, strawberries without their typical red color may be less dangerous for allergic people. This means that someday people allergic to strawberries may be able to them safely.
The Bottom Line
Like any other allergy, a strawberry allergy can cause a lot discomfort to your life. However, avoiding this fruit can help you to stay symptom-free.
Strawberries are a common ingredient and flavoring in many foods. If you are allergic to it, make sure to read the ingredients labels carefully to avoid foods that may dangerous for you. When eating out, inform your waiter about your allergy and explain why you want your food totally free of strawberries.
If you have only had mild reactions to strawberry, you may be able to re-introduce it at some point in your life without developing an allergy. To do so, you may need to perform an oral food challenge first. Consult with your doctor about your options.