Citrus allergy is a different type of allergy in which a person experiences a reaction when they eat citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes. This is a rare allergy and only affects a few people.
It is hard to tell if you have a citrus allergy or not without analyzing the symptoms. Most of the times, a person who is allergic to grass is more likely to be allergic to citrus.
This article will tell you the symptoms of citrus allergy and how to identify it by yourself.
Symptoms of citrus allergy
The symptoms of citrus allergy show as soon as the person touches a citrus fruit, its juice or any product that uses it. Occasionally it takes hours to develop the signs.
Sometimes the allergic people even show symptoms when they inhale the airborne citrus particles. Allergic signs are more obvious on the part of the skin that comes in contact with citrus products. This part of the body could be among the following.
- Tongue, lips or gums
- Throat and GIT tract
The most common symptoms of citric allergy include these.
- tingling feeling
- extreme itching
- swelling and inflammation
Touching the peels of citrus fruits may cause a skin reaction that is characterized as contact dermatitis. It feels and shows like
- a burning sensation on the skin
- small blisters on the skin
- dry and scaly skin
- itching and swelling
- skin hives
Citrus allergies are also linked to digestive and respiratory problems such as.
- Nausea and vomiting
- A runny nose and sneezing
- Stomach pain and diarrhea
Rarely, a citrus allergy can cause anaphylaxis which is a fatal condition. It is declared as a medical emergency and the patient needs immediate treatment in this case. All other cases of citrus allergies are not fatal.
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The symptoms of anaphylaxis symptoms are
- Confusion of mind
- Feeling difficulty in breathing
- flushed skin
- nausea and vomiting
- stomach pain and diarrhea
- extreme low blood pressure
- swelling of mouth, throat and GI tract
- irregular pulse and heartbeat
What causes citrus allergy?
Allergic reactions are a response of the immune system that misidentifies a substance. This substance is usually harmless but our immune system takes as a threat to the body. This substance is called allergen and the mechanism is called allergy.
The patients of pollen and grass allergy are sometimes allergic to citrus fruits too. It is due to a cross-reactivity, which happens when the proteins in one substance show resemble an allergen and incite a similar reaction. A research study suggests that people that are allergic to grass are also vulnerable to citrus allergy.
Which foods to avoid citrus allergy?
Citrus fruits include all types of limes, lemons, and oranges. A person who is suffering from citrus allergy should avoid these certain types of fruits and completely eliminate them from his diet. Following is the list of NOT TO EAT foods
You may not know this but many of the processed foods also use some part of citrus as its ingredients. You should make a habit of reading labels before buying them. Do not buy following things.
- Lemon juice
- Orange juice
- Grapefruit juice
- Ice cream with orange or lemon flavor
- Flavored Yogurts
- Certain types of jellies
- Selective herbal teas
- sauces and dressings
- seafood and meaty food
- alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails
- vitamin C supplements
Citrus is also present in certain personal care products such as toothpaste and mouthwash. Cosmetics and fragrances sometimes have limonene, which is extracted from citrus peels. Avoid all such products as they may cause contact dermatitis in you.
Citrus can also be found in personal care products such as toothpaste. Cosmetics and perfumes often contain limonene, a compound in citrus peels that can cause contact dermatitis.
Try alternative options
It is not necessary that every person who is allergic to citrus will react to a contact with it. Some people are able to tolerate the cooked citrus fruit and recipes that use it. It happens because heat deactivates the proteins that otherwise trigger the allergic reaction.
For those who can not tolerate this but still want to add a flavor to their recipes, they can try a flavor of tart in their recipes. Some other alternatives of citrus that you can actually use in recipes are as follows.
- Herbs i.e. lemon verbena and sumac
- white wine
Due to its high acidity, citric acid is used to preserve foods and to enhance flavor. Using it on the skin can cause skin irritation. But rarely it causes an allergy. It is a good substitute for citrus when you are allergic to citrus.
Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C but they are not the only source of vitamin C. There are other options too that an allergy patient can use. Some of these options are
- bell peppers
- kiwi fruit
How to diagnose citrus allergy?
If you suspect that you are suffering from citrus allergy, you should consult a doctor. He will ask you about your diet, symptoms, and habits. He may like to perform a physical examination during a skin reaction.
You may be asked to record the meals and symptoms in a food diary. This record will help to identify the triggers of your allergy. For further confirmation. The doctor will perform an allergy test. Following are some common allergy tests.
- Skin tests
It involves using a needle to apply allergen in a diluted form to the skin. Within a few minutes, if the skin becomes red and itchy or shows bumps, it means that the person is suffering from allergy to that substance.
For confirmation, an intradermal test is used. In this test, the diluted allergen is injected below the surface of the skin. This test shows visible reaction, conforming allergy.
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- Blood tests
The blood test is a secondary test in case of citrus allergy. It will determine that how much immunoglobulin E antibodies are in the bloodstream. A person who has the high number of antibodies is likely to have an allergy to the substance tested. Usually, blood tests are more expensive than skin tests and they are often less accurate.
Is there a treatment available?
Allergy has no permanent cure. But there are many ways to reduce the symptoms. It takes some time but these symptoms diminish gradually. If you reduce or stop the contact with citrus fruits, the symptoms will disappear. When avoiding citrus by 100% is a problem, following treatments can help.
- Medication; there are several prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines available to treat allergic reactions. The doctor will recommend you one, based on your symptoms. Some of the examples of anti-allergy medicines are antihistamines. Inhaler or topical lotions.
- Immunotherapy; this is a treatment for severe allergies. In immunotherapy, patients are given injections of the allergen that aim to decrease the immune response to them when they enter the body.
- Emergency epinephrine; people that are at risk of anaphylaxis will require an emergency epinephrine injector, such as an EpiPen or Auvi-Q, with them wherever they go.
When should you see a doctor?
Anyone who faces the allergic reaction for the first time should see a doctor. He will explain the allergy, its mechanism, medication, and control. Some further testing may be required to be sure on citrus allergy. In case you experience the symptoms of anaphylaxis, rush to emergency medical care.
A citrus allergy is a rare condition that sometimes becomes severe. The only solution to avoid citrus allergy is by cutting citrus fruits out of the diet and avoiding such products that have citrus in them. There is no permanent cure of citrus allergy but medicines and immunotherapy can help to alleviate the symptoms.