Apricots are nutritious but can cause medical problems for people with an allergy to the fruit. Most people with an allergy to apricots have other fruit and pollen allergies, particularly to birch pollen. But some reactions to apricots are not allergic in nature but simply represent a food intolerance to apricots.
Although apricot allergies are uncommon, they do occur. If you are allergic to apricots, your body makes proteins called antibodies that react with substances found in this fruit. This reaction can lead to tingling of the mouth; swelling of your lips, tongue, face or throat; hives; or a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.
Oral Allergy Syndrome
Oral allergy syndrome is also known as food-pollen syndrome. Eating apricots may trigger the symptoms if you have a birch pollen allergy. This is because apricots and birch pollen have some of the same proteins. Antibodies against the birch pollen can cross-react with apricot proteins, causing symptoms. This can happen suddenly, even if you have previously been able to eat apricots without a problem. Peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, apples, pears and some other fruits and vegetables may cause similar symptoms if you have a birch pollen allergy.
Symptoms include itching and irritation of your mouth or throat. This reaction usually gets better on its own within minutes of eating the apricot. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that oral allergy syndrome symptoms may worsen in nearly 9 percent of people, and progress to anaphylaxis in roughly 2 percent of people.
A food intolerance to apricots is different and distinct from an apricot allergy. While bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, nausea and stomach pain are unpleasant and uncomfortable, these are signs of an intolerance to apricots, not an allergy. An apricot intolerance simply means your body is not digesting apricots well.
What to Do
If you have an apricot allergy, avoid eating them. Check the ingredients of the foods you eat to make sure they don't include apricots. For some people, cooking apricots prevents allergy symptoms because the proteins in the fruit are changed when they're heated. Talk to your doctor before trying to eat cooked apricots if you have been diagnosed with this allergy.
If you have an allergy to apricots, a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis is a possibility. Signs and symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling of the mouth and throat, low blood pressure, weakness and fainting.
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not treated quickly. If you experience any signs or symptoms, call 911. If your doctor has prescribed an epinephrine injection, use it immediately as directed.
- Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education: Food Allergy
- Food Allergy Research & Education: Other Allergens
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: Oral Allergy Syndrome
- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: Oral Allergy Syndrome
- Allergy and Allergic Diseases; A. Barry Kay, editor, et al.
- The Washington Manual of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Subspecialty Consult; Shirley Joo, editor
Based on the West Coast, Dr. Donna Chung is a physician with 25 years of clinical experience in preventive health, oncology, primary care. Dr. Chung received her M.D. from New York University.