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What is a Strawberry Allergy?

Skin may become red, puffy, and itchy when in contact with a strawberry.
Strawberries.
Strawberry coulis pooled around a dessert.
Tests have revealed people with a strawberry allergy have a blood protein similar to that which causes a birch pollen allergy.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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A strawberry allergy is an allergy to certain proteins found in strawberries. When people with an allergy are exposed to these proteins, they develop numbness and tingling in their mouths, along with other symptoms such as burning lips, intestinal distress, and congestion. In some cases, the bronchial tubes may swell and close, causing breathing difficulties and severe health problems. Many people who are allergic to strawberries also experience contact dermatitis when they touch strawberries or products with strawberry ingredients, which can cause the skin to turn red, puffy, and itchy.

Being allergic to strawberries is fairly common. Most people notice that they have a strawberry allergy because they experience the symptoms after eating or handling strawberries, and the allergy can be confirmed with allergy testing. The only way to manage an allergy of this type is to avoid eating strawberries and products with strawberry flavoring. This allergy does not extend to other fruits and berries, as it involves a protein unique to strawberries.

Strawberries can turn up in surprising places. Their leaves are sometimes used in herbal teas and certain cosmetics, for example, and strawberry flavoring is used in medications and skin care products. Shampoo and conditioner may have strawberry extract, as can air fresheners and laundry detergent. Avoiding strawberry products can get tricky, but strawberries are usually disclosed on the labeling, as they are an expensive ingredient. People with strawberry allergies are safe around artificial strawberry flavoring, as this product lacks the proteins found in real strawberries.

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Studies on strawberries and the blood of people with allergies to these tasty little berries seem to suggest that the protein is similar to that which causes a birch pollen allergy. Someone with a birch pollen allergy can develop a strawberry allergy over time. The red color also appears to play a role, as white strawberry cultivars do not cause allergic reactions. White strawberries are also less flavorful, and researchers are working on making them tastier so that people with these allergies can enjoy these fruits.

In most patients, a strawberry allergy is not life threatening. It can be uncomfortable and irritating, especially when things like strawberry pie are served at parties and the patient must explain that he or she cannot eat the dessert. People with strawberry allergies should try to avoid the berries, however, as a more severe allergic reaction can develop at any time. They should make sure to inform hosts of dinner parties and restaurant staff about their allergy, to confirm that they will not be exposed to strawberry proteins during meals away from home.

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Discuss this Article

anon311105
Post 9

These reactions you mention are strange. I have been allergic to strawberries all my life. I have tried to eat them in my early twenties (three small wild) and still could not. My reaction is: three days delayed reaction, then starting with itchy face and numbness, a small welt or welts progressing to severe swelling and bleeding eczema that spreads. Last time I ate them (those three small), I needed topical cortisone for a full year. Now, that's a reason to avoid them for life and not even take a chance at trying them, cooked, dried, or whatever.

anon305493
Post 8

I am finding that I am very allergic to only fresh strawberries, dehydrated strawberries (like in cereals), and frozen strawberries. Once they have been cooked for a lengthy amount of time, I can eat as much as I want -- like strawberry jam.

Just recently, I made cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries for Thanksgiving, since I didn't want to use canned cranberries like I normally do. I got a horrible allergic reaction just like when I do when I eat strawberries. I had numbness in my lips, cheeks, neck, and my tongue swells making it difficult to swallow. So, no fresh cranberries for me either!

anon259896
Post 7

My mum had a very bad reaction to eating a strawberry when she was six. She started bleeding from the mouth so much that she was rushed into hospital and given two blood transfusions.

She hasn't touched them since, but the interesting thing is, I have never had a problem. I can eat strawberries until I'm sick (but that's just me over indulging).

anon180790
Post 6

I had a skin prick test and found out that was allergic to strawberries but I always had eating them and nothing happened. I'm 25 and a year ago i drank a strawberry smoothie and got an allergic reaction. Since then I can't eat them fresh, frozen nothing that has strawberry. Can't even kiss my boyfriend if he has eaten them. Every time I eat them the allergic reaction gets worse, so it's best to avoid them at all.

anon166964
Post 5

i eat some raw strawberries yesterday. after getting up this morning, i felt that itch. also my lips have a big bubble. please give me the medicine name for this. my age is 24.

anon153285
Post 4

I was allergic to strawberries when I was a child- I threw up once after eating them when I was young, and since my mom had the same allergy when she was young, that was that. I, too, could eat strawberries if they had been frozen or cooked.

The odd thing with my allergy, though, is that I grew out of it. My mom always told me that when she was around 12-13, she tried strawberries again and had no problems. So when I turned 12, I tried a few strawberries just to see.. and lo and behold, I'm no longer allergic! I can eat a bunch at a time with absolutely no issues. I've always thought it was weird to not only have this allergy [I've never met anyone else with it], but to grow out of it.

Anon60545, have you tried eating cooked strawberries, such as strawberry jam? I also liked strawberry ice cream as a kid. Plain, frozen strawberries always disappointed me, though. I'm not surprised that the daiquiri was made with fresh berries. I suppose to someone without the allergy that would be a good thing because it's a sign of quality!

anon135977
Post 3

My daughter has enjoyed strawberries for a while and only just recently showed a capillary / bruised type reaction under her mouth after eating a strawberry. Can she be allergic to only some types of strawberry since she has not reacted before?

anon67205
Post 2

can someone that is allergic to strawberries have a reaction when inhaled? Even if it is artificial flavoring?

anon60545
Post 1

I have an allergy to strawberries. I was wondering since I didn't see it mentioned here is I heard I could eat them only after they have been frozen. I have never had a reaction to eating say, strawberry shortcake if the strawberries have been frozen and I have eaten a lot even a couple times a day for a few days with no reaction.

That being said, I drank some of the wine cooler type strawberry daiquiri and had a reaction to it. I never would have guessed they wouldn't use frozen strawberries to make their product but that may have been the case or maybe it is just a huge concentration.

Does anyone have more information on freezing the strawberries in order to alter the protein and stop the allergic reaction?

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