Hay fever could be triggering other allergies, doctor reveals

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Hay fever may be triggering an allergic reaction to foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, a doctor from a digital healthcare provider has revealed.

Spring and summer are key times for hay fever sufferers, with many people currently experiencing symptoms due to the recent ‘pollen bomb’ that’s been noted across the UK.

However, lead GP at Livi, Dr Bryony Henderson, says that the allergic reaction caused by hay fever, which often results in irritation and inflammation, mainly in the nose and eyes, can trigger the onset of Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS).

OAS is a cross-allergy that can occur when the body exhibits an allergic reaction to other substances that are similar to the original allergen. This is because the different substances contain similar allergens, and the body develops a hypersensitivity to it.

For those who may be experiencing symptoms of OAS, Dr Bryony breaks down how to identify the syndrome and how to seek treatment for it.

Symptoms of OAS

Oral allergy syndrome typically affects the mouth and throat. Common symptoms include:

  • An itchy throat and tingling in your mouth
  • Redness and swelling of your lips, tongue and throat
  • Scratchy throat and difficulty swallowing

Around 90% of people with a birch pollen allergy also have OAS and may experience problems in their mouth and throat. The symptoms often appear within 15 minutes of eating a triggering food, which are usually fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, but easily go away on their own after a few minutes.

​​​​​​​If you find yourself with an itchy throat after eating during hay fever season, you may be experiencing OAS, also known as pollen-food allergy syndrome. OAS is linked to hay fever because some foods have a very similar protein formation as the pollen you’re allergic to. For instance, if you are sensitive to birch pollen (the most common allergen in the UK), then this can cause a cross reaction to apples, apricots and plums amongst other fruit and vegetables."

Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP Livi

“In rare cases, oral allergy syndrome can lead to anaphylaxis, which is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, low blood pressure and loss of consciousness. If these symptoms arise, call 999 and follow the steps to treat anaphylaxis.”

Treating OAS and hay fever:

“For those who begin to develop trouble breathing or are struggling to manage symptoms with over-the-counter medications, speaking to a doctor can help. There are stronger medications for hay fever available on prescription, or in severe cases, a GP may refer you to an allergy specialist.”

To help people manage their allergies over the coming months, Livi has launched a 2023 pollen forecast which shows a breakdown of different kinds of pollen and the peak periods, as well as advice on how to manage both hay fever and OAS symptoms.

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