Kiwi is one of the healthiest fruits of all time. It is packed with potassium, vitamin A, C and E, beta-carotene, alpha-linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acid. It is also known for its high fiber content and antioxidant properties. Kiwis have gained popularity in terms of great cancer fighters. Allergic reactions to kiwi restrain the individuals from availing the benefits out of it.
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What is kiwi fruit allergy?
Kiwi allergy is basically an oral allergy syndrome. It can be of a more severe type in some depending on the reactivity of their immune system to the fruit.
Causes of kiwi fruit allergy
Kiwi allergy is caused mainly due to the malfunctioning of the immune system. The immune system fails to recognize the fruit proteins as harmless and initiates an adverse response considering them to be harmful pathogens. As a response to the attack, antibodies are produced in large numbers. These immunoglobulin E antibodies engulf the foreign antigens and signal the immune system to release histamines and other harmful chemicals. These are solely responsible for triggering allergic reactions throughout the body.
Kiwi allergy is also linked to pollen food syndrome and latex allergy. Those who are allergic to tree pollen, develop allergic symptoms to kiwi because of the similarity in protein structure of both kiwi as well as pollen.
Symptoms of kiwi allergy
Kiwi allergy linked to oral allergy syndrome generally manifests mild symptoms associated with mouth, lips, tongue and throat. Individuals with this type of allergy experience the following symptoms:
- Itching, tingling or burning sensation in and around mouth, lips and tongue
- Swelling of lips, mouth, tongue and throat
Apart from oral symptoms, kiwi allergy also causes symptoms related to skin. These include the following:
- Itching, skin rashes
- Redness of skin
- Swollen skin
Kiwi allergy can also cause symptoms related to respiratory system and digestive system. Such symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion
- Troubled breathing coupled with shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
Life threatening anaphylaxis reaction to Kiwi Fruit
Kiwi is also responsible for causing severe, life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction, the symptoms of which include the following:
- Constriction of airway due to severe swelling of throat
- Extreme difficulty to breathe
- Rapid heart rate
- Abrupt drop in blood pressure
- Anaphylactic shock
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
Untreated anaphylaxis may even lead to coma or death.
Diagnosis & Tests
Kiwi allergies are found to be more severe in children as compared to adults. Therefore, as soon as there is an onset of symptoms, it is important to seek medical assessment in order to have a clear understanding of the allergy. It is more likely to have a severe form of allergy in future if the initial one was severe. In case of mild symptoms, there is a sleek chance for the allergy to worsen in future. On the basis of the persisting symptoms, the consultant decides on which test to proceed with. Either skin prick test or blood test is opted for. The results of these tests are found to be only partially helpful. Applying fresh raw kiwi fruit on the pricked skin has been reportedly found to be more reliable in obtaining a clear picture as compared to kiwi extract.
The factors that certainly put people at risk of developing allergic reactions to kiwi are discussed below:
Allergic reactions to certain foods
If an individual is allergic to avocado, banana, hazelnuts and rye grains, due to high chances of cross-reactivity, the person is susceptible to kiwi allergy.
Pollen allergy and latex allergy
Already having an allergy to birch pollen and latex (rubber) put an individual at a risk of developing allergic reaction to kiwi.
Severe asthma patients are at considerable risk of being allergic to kiwi. They are prone to fatal anaphylaxis reaction.
Talking about risk factors, researchers claim that there is always a geographical component at play. Wherever there is a prevalence of birch pollen, cases of kiwi allergy are more. This has been seen predominantly in North America and Europe.
Kiwi allergy can be quite complicated in terms of life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction. If anaphylaxis is left untreated for a long time, it may result to coma and sometimes even death. Thus, symptoms of kiwi allergy should not be taken casually and medical help should be sought for at the earliest.
Treatment of Kiwi Allergy
Treating kiwi allergy symptoms right after the onset is very essential to prevent the reaction from getting worse. The initial line of defense is to avoid kiwi. Mild symptoms are mostly treated with prescribed anti-histamines. Anaphylaxis cases are treated with adrenaline injections and a trip to emergency room. If anaphylaxis reaction is detected to be a possibility, individuals are recommended to carry injectable adrenaline (epinephrine) and anti-histamine medications along with them. Even after administering adrenaline injection, it is always advisable to visit the hospital for a complete follow-up and to monitor the emergence of any secondary reaction. Injectable adrenaline is simple to use and can be self-administered conveniently if the method is learnt from the medical practitioner.
Dietary changes and caution
Once kiwi allergy is detected, a regimented diet devoid of kiwi is mandatory. Not only kiwi fruit but also the closely associated foods whose proteins are similar in structure to that of kiwi should be avoided. All sorts of desserts, smoothies, jams and yogurts that have likeliness to have kiwi as ingredient should be avoided while dining out. In case of any confusion, asking the concerned person for a broader insight is the wisest thing to do. To many it still remains an unknown fact that kiwi paste is inherently used in bakery products like bread, cakes and muffins as a replacement of fat. Food labels should be read with strict vigil while purchasing any foodstuff. Doubts regarding food labels can be cleared by putting the queries straightaway to the manufacturer.