By Richard Weber, MD

Q: Sometimes my mouth tingles when I eat melons – is this a food allergy?

A: It’s a kind of allergy called oral allergy syndrome, tied to the fact that some fruit and vegetable proteins are genetic cousins to certain pollens, like ragweed.So people allergic to pollen may experience symptoms when they eat related foods – such as cantaloupe or watermelon with ragweed allergy or apples with birch tree – especially during pollen season.

Q: What symptoms would you notice and are they dangerous?

A: The most common is a little tingling of the lips or itching in the mouth. Most of the time it doesn’t go beyond an annoyance.

Unlike proteins in peanut or shrimp, known to cause serious allergic reactions, these fruit proteins break down quickly when exposed to enzymes in your mouth or stomach so they are unlikely to be absorbed into your bloodstream and cause a more generalized reaction. There are reports that the severity could increase, but is it common? No.

As with all allergy symptoms, however, I would advise someone who experiences these symptoms to see an allergist.

Richard Weber, MD, board-certified allergist with National Jewish Health, is president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

For more information, you can also listen to a podcast interview with Dr. Weber on oral allergy syndrome.

Ask the Allergist is sponsored by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).