Few of us expect to feel our lips tingle and our chests constrict when we bite into a pizza or an Italian sandwich. But for the small number of people with an allergy to tomato, that's exactly what can happen. Though most of us know that food allergies are prevalent and even on the rise, the symptoms of tomato allergies are lesser known than that of more publicized food allergies. That doesn't mean that the symptoms are any less severe or worth less notice than those of other food allergies.
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Recognize the difference between a food intolerance and a true allergy. Food intolerances are more common than food allergies and, though the body's chemical reaction to the food can cause very real and unpleasant symptoms, food intolerances have less potential for fatality. A true allergy to tomato is rare and caused by a histamine reaction to a protein usually found in the seeds, skin and juice of the tomato.
Take note of when the symptoms occur. Food allergy symptoms tend to manifest very soon after the food is ingested. It's important for your doctor to know the timetable so that he might rule out whether you are experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction or a food intolerance. You should also take note as to whether your symptoms have become increasingly worse with each exposure to tomatoes.
Avoid fresh tomatoes if after eating them you experience swelling or itching around your mouth, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty breathing or a persistent skin rash. Though scientists don't know the exact reason, many people with an allergy to tomatoes only experience symptoms when in contact with the raw fruit. Some patients can eat processed products such as catchup or tomato paste with no discernible reaction.
Connect tomato allergy symptoms to other food contact allergies. The tomato plant is closely related to potatoes, eggplant and tobacco. They are all members of the Deadly Nightshade family and have a similar structure. Since a true tomato allergy is so rare, if you're allergic it's likely that you will have symptoms after contact with these other foods too.
Make an appointment with an allergist or your family physician for food allergy testing. For a suspected tomato allergy, you are likely to undergo both blood tests and pin-prick allergen testing. Pin-prick testing allows the allergist to inject small amounts of food proteins in a grid pattern on your back to look for localized reactions, while the blood test can reveal an increase in the IgE allergy antibody in your system.
Tips and warnings
- Even if you only suspect you are allergic to tomatoes, avoid them until you know for sure. Since food allergies can increase in severity with each exposure, it's best not to take any chances.
- Always seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing. These can be signs of a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction know as anaphylactic shock.