Ragweed, cantaloupe, and OAS

Oops! I set myself up for allergy problems this week, although I should know better by now. Cantaloupe was a bargain at the grocery store, so I bought one to snack on this week.

Much of the year I can eat and enjoy cantaloup, but not in the fall. This time of year, eating cantaloup gives me a prickly tongue and itchy throat. It probably didn't help that I've been putting sunflower seeds on my salads instead of croutons.

I've known since I was three years old that bananas are not my friends. At three I knew bananas made my mouth feel itchy, and I've been refusing to eat them ever since. I stood up to the very adamant neighborhood mom, even though I risked being sent home for this rebellion. I would cave to her demands and eat bread crusts or apple peels, but not bananas.

As a thirty-something adult, I had my first allergy skin prick testing. Vindicated at last, I had a huge itchy reaction to the banana prick. I wasn't surprised to have prick reactions to the cucumbers and chamomile tests, either, as they were suspects in the two times I'd had severe hives.

I'll add an explanation about cross-reactivity from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology in the hope that someone with itchy eyes and throat will remember next fall to skip the melon:

Itchy mouth may be tied to produce, ragweed

MILWAUKEE-Does your mouth or throat become itchy after eating fresh fruits or vegetables during this time of the year? For the 36 million people suffering from ragweed allergies, it is important to know about pollen-food syndrome, also known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS), caused by allergens such as ragweed, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Each year, ragweed begins to bloom around August 15. "The pollen released from ragweed is the airborne allergen most responsible for the onslaught of allergy symptoms at this time of year," said Suzanne S. Teuber, MD, FAAAAI, chair of the AAAAI's Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee. "In addition to sneezing and itchy, watery eyes, and symptoms of OAS, ragweed allergies can take a heavy toll on the allergy sufferer's quality of life."

Oral allergy syndrome results from a cross-reactivity reaction between allergy antibodies directed towards pollen proteins with similar proteins that are found in other parts of plants. Itchiness of the mouth and throat with mild angiodema (swelling)immediately after eating fresh fruits or vegetables are common symptoms of OAS. Individuals with ragweed allergies might experience these symptoms when consuming foods such as:

Sunflower seeds
Chamomile tea

And, since I know you're wondering:

1739, from It. Cantalupo, former Papal summer estate, near Rome, where melons were first grown in Europe after introduction, supposedly, from Armenia.

1790, from ragged (q.v.), so called from shape of the leaves. Applied to a different plant, ragwort, from 1658. Ragwort itself is attested from c.1450.

Ragweed, Giant (Horseweed)
An annual broadleaf weed reproducing from seed that has a strong vigorous stem that under fertile conditions can grow 8 to 15 feet tall. Leaves are large, with three to five deep lobes. Male flowers on long spikes at tips of stems release large amounts of pollen. Readily controlled with a good herbicide or mowing program.

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