Banana Allergy

A Banana Allergy is No Laughing Matter

While most of us are able to enjoy delicious desserts and delights like Bananas Foster, banana cream pie, banana split and banana bread, for those with a banana allergy, these dishes can be deadly. According to the Chiquita Banana website, bananas are immensely popular. In fact, in the United States, the banana is the most popular fruit. However, if you suffer from a banana allergy or banana intolerance you are unable to eat this tempting food.

The First Time Might be the Last Time – Banana Allergy Symptoms

Sometimes, the human body does the wrong thing. In certain instances, the result is an allergy or sensitivity. In this case, the body treats a friend like an enemy. While an allergy to banana is not usually serious, occasionally it can be very dangerous. Sometimes, just being in close proximity to the fruit can trigger a response. The United Kingdom’s Telegraph has reported on unusual places where bananas have been banned because staff members have allergies.

It seems that a British Broadcasting Corporation staff member and another at Stoke Damerel Primary School in Plymouth, have experienced significant allergic reactions to the beloved fruit, so no one is permitted to bring the fruit on site.

Banana allergy

Banana allergy

An allergy is often developed after exposure to an allergen. Therefore, the first time a banana is eaten, there may be no reaction. It may take time for symptoms to become bothersome enough to even notice, or the next time the fruit is eaten, the response might be devastating.

There are two kinds of banana allergies. Whether an individual suffers from a banana allergy related to tree pollen or one that is associated with a latex allergy, the results are the same. The delicious fruit is forbidden. Those allergic to bananas are also often allergic to other foods because they have the same protein that is responsible for the adverse response of the allergy sufferer. Some of these foods include:

  • Avocados
  • Mangos
  • Chestnuts
  • Kiwi
  • Passion Fruit

If the allergy is the result of a sensitivity to tree pollen, symptoms can occur quickly. Itching is a common response and frequently starts at the first points of contact – the lips, tongue and throat. If the esophagus becomes inflamed, this is a condition known as (Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE)). A runny or stuffy nose, wheezing, coughing, watery eyes and other common symptoms can occur.

If, instead, the reaction is related to latex, the victim can experience severe abdominal pain, cramps, and bloating. Diarrhea and vomiting, more violent symptoms, involve a condition known as (Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES)). Swelling, rash, hives, welts and other types of inflammation can occur.

This is because the body generates antibodies and histamine in an effort to combat the perceived intruder. In some cases, breathing may become difficult because the airway becomes constricted. Another serious complication involves low blood pressure caused by the dilation of the blood vessels. In the case of a latex-fruit allergy, swelling can occur on the face, arm or chest.

Fever is a potential symptom for those experiencing banana allergies or sensitivities. It is also possible for an allergic reaction to result in an intensification of some ailments including eczema or asthma. Conversely, a family history of these conditions can indicate a propensity for developing an allergy to bananas.

While it is possible that heating bananas will render them harmless as in the case of banana bread, it is not certain. Under the care of a doctor, a patient may be able to learn whether cooked bananas are safe. Still, if an individual is not currently allergic to cooked bananas, it is no guarantee that such an allergy will not develop in the future.

Anaphylaxis can occur in extreme circumstances. If the reaction is severe enough, shock may occur. In such cases, medical treatment is a necessity, or death may occur.

The Latex-Banana Connection for Those with a Banana Allergy

Because the allergens found in latex and bananas are similar, many who suffer from one often suffer from the other. This is referred to as cross-reactivity. In the case of bananas, chitinase, a protein, is the allergen in question. The reaction to latex or bananas involves a reaction to this protein as the immune system springs into unwanted action. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) is the term used to describe allergies involving food.

The incidence of latex allergies appears to be increasing. It would seem possible that the related allergy to bananas might increase, as well. If you know you have a latex allergy, it is important to be aware of the possibility you may be allergic to bananas, as well. There is a lot of “networking” as far as allergies are concerned. It turns out that children who suffer from pollen and/or ragweed allergies are more likely to develop a banana allergy.

Banana Intolerance

A more mild reaction can be thought of as a sensitivity to or intolerance of bananas. This is not a true allergic reaction. Minor symptoms can include mouth ulcers, headaches or migraines, itching or some swelling, while allergies can be powerful enough to result in death due to an inability to breath, anaphylactic shock, or some other serious complication.

People can be tested for items they are allergic to as well as sensitive to or intolerant of. More mild reactions like itching or watery eyes can be a symptom of an intolerance as opposed to an actual allergy.

Histamine, tyramine and serotonin occur, naturally, in foods like avocados, chocolate, citrus fruits, vegetables, red wine and, of course, bananas. These naturally occurring chemicals can cause symptoms that indicate a sensitivity to these foods.

Allergy to Banana is Relatively Rare

Because an allergy to bananas is relatively rare, the symptoms are not as quickly recognized as those with more common food allergies. It is possible to react, mildly, several times after eating a banana before the connection is finally made especially considering the fact that bananas are often eaten with other foods. If you are uncomfortable after eating, it is a good idea to start being aware of what you eat, so you can close in on the culprit.

Banana Allergy Treatment and Prognosis

If an individual suspects a banana intolerance or allergy, it is advisable to get tested in order to avoid possible complications. Self-diagnosis can lead to problems. It is safer to consult a physician and be properly diagnosed and treated for symptoms.

Here is a convenient checklist of common symptoms of an allergy to bananas. If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, it might be a good idea to consult a physician:

  • Itching especially at the points of contact
  • Sore throat or difficulty swallowing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Inflammation, swelling, rash, hives or welts
  • Abdominal pain, cramps or bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing

Children who present with banana allergy symptoms frequently outgrow the sensitivity. However, adults who develop a banana allergy may suffer from it their entire lives.

Once diagnosed, if you cannot imagine life without this wonderful, nutritious fruit, prescription medications are available that will relieve the symptoms. This makes it possible for many people to be able to enjoy their favorite banana dishes who might have, otherwise, been denied.

For those with relatively minor symptoms, treatment with cortisone, steroid creams or antihistamines may be a solution. Those who suffer with a banana allergy know all too well the difficulty of avoiding one of the world’s most popular fruits.

Sources

  1. WebMD – Food Allergies Cause
  2. The Telegraph – ‘Banana ban’ at BBC after one member of staff suffers allergy
  3. WiseGeek – What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Bananas?

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