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About Banana Allergies
The banana allergy is an overreaction by the immune system against a specific protein in bananas. It is related to the latex allergy, and the cross reactivity is known as the latex-fruit allergy syndrome. Hypersensitivity to bananas is considered a type 1 allergy.
A type 1 allergy is one type of hypersensitivity produced by the immune system. It is a quick reaction that occurs within a few minutes of ingesting the specific allergen. The initial exposure will not produce symptoms, but the immune system prepares itself for subsequent exposures to the allergen. Specifically, the immune system produces an IgE antibody that will identify the allergen. The next time the immune system recognizes it, the IgE antibody will bind to it and release histamines, which will produce physical symptoms.
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It is believed that chitinases are the proteins responsible for the banana allergy. In most cases, individuals with a hypersensitivity to bananas are also allergic to latex, which is a milky emulsion derived from plants. This latex-fruit allergy syndrome encompasses several fruits, and individuals that have an allergic reaction to bananas may also have an allergic reaction to other fruits. Other fruits that contain chitinases, including plantains, avocados, and chestnuts, produce similar reactions.
Another possible trigger is pollen. Individuals with a hypersensitivity to bananas may also be allergic to birch pollen. Other types of pollen may also trigger an allergic reaction including ragweed and Platanus tree pollen. These connected allergies are cross-reactive, that is, the antibody for the banana allergen will produce an immune response to the pollen as well.
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Symptoms, including stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, runny nose, watery eyes, headaches, itching, sneezing and wheezing, are usually mild. However, the amount of bananas the person eats can increase the severity of the attack. Anaphylactic shock is possible but this is rare.
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Most allergic reactions from bananas resolve on their own but anti-histamines can be used to help alleviate symptoms. If the reaction is severe and consists of anaphylactic shock, immediate medical attention is necessary.
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Avoiding Banana Allergy Triggers
The best way to avoid an allergic reaction to bananas is to avoid bananas and foods which contain them. It is a good idea to avoid all fruits that have chitinases. In addition, fruits that are associated with the latex-fruit allergy syndrome should be avoided as well. Check the ingredients section on food labels to see if there are any products which may cause an allergic reaction. Also, ask the waiters at restaurants about the ingredients. Inform them about your banana allergy.
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1. "General Information for Banana Allergy." InformAll Database. http://foodallergens.ifr.ac.uk/food.lasso?selected_food=5#summary
2. "Banana Allergy – Symptoms and Treatment." Instah: Ways to Get Health. http://www.instah.com/allergies/banana-allergy-symptoms-and-treatment/
3. "Allergies." Lab Tests Online. http://www.labtestsonline.org/understanding/conditions/allergies.html
4. "Bananas." Whole Foods. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=7