Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18. And about 30 percent of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food.1 While it’s fairly common to have an allergy to nuts, dairy, or seafood, there isn’t much awareness that bananas can also cause an allergic reaction. Here’s what you need to know to find out if you’re are at risk.
What Is Banana Allergy?
In general, an allergy is a disorder caused by an abnormal reaction by your immune system to a harmless substance called an allergen. The symptoms and the severity of the allergy can vary widely and may depend on several other factors. Fortunately, banana allergies are relatively uncommon and do not rank among the most common allergies.
Research has found that the main allergen in banana responsible for the allergic reaction is a class of protein called chitinase.2 Children have also been found to be allergic to bananas but often outgrow them. However, adults who develop banana allergy may have to avoid banana allergens for a lifetime.
The symptoms of banana allergy can appear immediately after tasting or eating bananas. In some people, an allergic reaction may be triggered just by having skin contact with bananas or even banana peels. Mild banana allergy is usually classified as an oral allergy syndrome (OAS) or pollen food syndrome since it affects your lips, mouth, and throat.
Here’s a list of possible symptoms:
- Runny nose or sneezing
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
- Swollen, itchy, or red eyes
- Anaphylaxis (life-threatening reaction) in rare cases
The severity of the allergy may vary from person to person and symptoms may also change with time. Some people also experience gastrointestinal problems like heartburn, indigestion, bloating, or constipation. You could also develop sores on and around the rectum when proteins from the digested banana come into contact with the skin. In babies, bananas could cause a painful diaper rash.
How To Know If You Are At Risk
The protein, chitinase, which causes an allergic reaction to bananas is also present in other fruits and vegetables. If you’re allergic to these foods, chances are that you also be allergic to bananas. Here’s a list of foods you need to watch out for:
- Bell peppers
Apart from foods, other physiological factors that may increase the likelihood of banana allergy include:
- History of eczema or atopic dermatitis
- Allergy to anything else, including foods, pollen, and plants
- History of oral allergy syndrome with any foods
- Having asthma
- Family history of allergies, especially to bananas
Link Between Banana And Latex Allergy
It has been found that a banana allergy can also appear as a consequence of a latex allergy. Some people are born allergic to latex, but you could develop it later in life due to exposure. The most frequent symptoms of latex allergy include itchiness, redness, and local swelling. You can also react to the powder used in latex gloves even without direct contact.
List of people who could have or develop latex allergy:
- Babies with spina bifida (spine-related birth defect) or other birth defects that require multiple surgeries using medical equipment containing latex
- People who work in fields where latex gloves or other latex objects are used on a regular basis
- People who work in the latex industry
If you’re sensitive to bananas and latex, avoid contact with latex-based objects, including balloons, fitness equipment, gloves, condoms, and dental dams.
Banana Allergy In Infants
Infants and children are also at risk of being allergic to bananas. If your child has eczema or other allergies, they are at a higher risk of developing a severe allergic reaction to specific foods. The symptoms of food allergies in children are similar to those in adults. A good way to build tolerance to allergens is to introduce allergens at an early age. This helps to reduce the risk of food allergies in the future.
Take these precautions if your child is at risk of developing allergies:
- Introduce peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and eggs to an infant between 5 ½ and 7 ½ months old
- Be cautious and monitor for signs of Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES), a rare food allergy
- Children with FPIES need to be on a restricted diet as this condition causes allergies to many foods
If your child has a mild allergy, it is possible that they might outgrow the allergy. However, this is only an observation and there is no research yet to support this claim.
Managing Banana Allergy
If you have multiple food sensitivities, your doctor may refer you to an allergy specialist. The allergy specialist can help you find out if your allergy to banana is likely to be severe or mild. A comprehensive test can also help you identify all your allergies.
In Infants And Children
Parents and caregivers of infants need to watch out for signs of allergies, like rashes or swelling, after eating bananas. A severe reaction can cause anaphylaxis which is life-threatening. If your child is experiencing difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, loss of consciousness, and other serious allergy symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
If you love having bananas, you could try having them after they have been cooked. It has been found that cooking may deactivate the allergy-causing protein. But it’s always better to consult your doctor or avoid bananas completely. You can also easily replace bananas with other fruits.
Safe food alternatives to bananas:
- Cooked sweet potatoes and yams
Living with a banana allergy can be difficult as bananas are a great source of everyday nutrition. However, it’s important that you take steps to avoid eating/coming into contact with bananas and foods with banana additives. Even a mild allergy can sometimes flare up to cause a severe life-threatening reaction. Make sure to talk to your doctor or allergy specialist about the precautions you need to take.
|↑1||Facts and Statistics. Food Allergy & Research Education.|
|↑2||Sanchez-Monge, R., C. Blanco, A. Diaz-Perales, C. Collada, T. Carrillo, C. Aragoncillo, and G. Salcedo. “Isolation and characterization of major banana allergens: identification as fruit class I chitinases.” Clinical and Experimental Allergy 29, no. 5 (1999): 673-680.|