Oral Allergy Syndrome – and broccoli behaving badly

A colourful trip likely to result in A&E
A colourful trip likely to result in A&E

Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) is an allergy which sounds like a teenager’s dream but for someone intent on keeping fit and with a balanced diet, it’s a nightmare.

Basically I’m unable to eat raw fruit and vegetables without making myself ill. And the number of times I was reminded to eat my five a day whilst I was trying to understand what my body was doing to me didn’t help me in the slightest in not wanting to do violent things to those making the suggestion!

Both my brother and I suffer, although our triggers are different, and over the years we’ve worked our own ways through the minefield.

OAS sounds like a bit of mumbo science (the sort that really annoys me) and I suspect if I didn’t suffer from it, I’d probably dismiss it as a fad. But it’s not, it is real. And actually a lot of people may exhibit some parts of OAS themselves without actually realising it.

But when it’s full on, it’s scary.

It was always my approach when feeling run down to ensure I ate lots of fresh food, especially fruit and vegetables. Get up the Vit C and others and the body can cleanse and sort itself out.

However, what if it’s those ‘good’ foods which are causing the problem?

So what is OAS?

Basically it is an auto-immune error whereby an allergy to pollen affects the throat which at the very least causes itching and discomfort and at the worst can trigger an anaphylactic shock. The mouth comes into contact with a trigger food – often a raw fruit or vegetable – and the immune system mis-recognises the proteins within as pollen, triggering it into action, un-necessarily. There is no cure and the best option is avoidance of the trigger foods, although in many cases, cooking the trigger foods will destroy the structure which confuses the immune system making it possible to eat said food.

I struggle with a lot of raw produce although citrus, bananas and onions are all fine. Green salad such as lettuce can be sneaked under the radar  in very small amounts but nothing more.

Using anti-histamines at the earliest opportunity catches the reaction and although it knocks me out for about 24 hours it’s far less unpleasant reaction than if it goes to completion. It starts with a lot of stiffness in my neck and progresses into my throat with a sharp pain. If left the tender area in my throat then ulcerates. The third part is what I’ve always called ‘wipe out’. Imagine your energy being in liquid form in your body and someone comes and syringes it out – that’s the only way I can describe it. And it’s a crushing tiredness which generally lasts about 4 days. So you go to bed tired, wake up just as tired. And with the ulcers persisting for the best par of two weeks, you can understand why I want to avoid getting to this stage.

I suspect I’ve had a general intolerance for many years and indeed the characteristic ‘wipe-out’ that accompanies my reactions is something that I suffered for many years  although didn’t know what it was or why it was happening, and it was just put down to being exhausted. However when I was taken ill in Northern Ireland back in 2007, something triggered which made the allergy really come to the fore. During a health check through my work at the time this sort of change can happen, especially with stress-related illnesses, which it turns out was behind my rapid hospital entry.

After many fruitless visits to my GP at the time (thankfully no longer) I managed to have a load of tests discounting Celiacs and Crohn’s Diseases as well as gluten and lactose intolerances which led on to visiting an allergy specialist who explained what the hell was going on and did further pin-prick tests to try to narrow down the allergen in question, which seemed to relate to grass pollen.

Having the diagnosis was important to me – at last someone was confirming that what was happening to me, was actually happening. The GP tried to make it seem like it was all in my head. Sure, all those ulcers on my tonsils, yeah, they were made up and I was just imagining their very presence and the pain they caused.

Unfortunately the experience with my past GP has made me very wary of doctors because I don’t trust them any more. It’s a shame that one individual can have that effect. However, I’m an intelligent human being, and appreciate this was one individual and of course when there is something wrong, I do seek advice from someone qualified, and don’t do a wikipedia diagnosis myself.


I’ve managed to avoid any major issues with the food allergy I suffer with for a couple of years.

Yet this week I managed to have two reactions within 3 days. On Tuesday, an ill-prepared frittata where my desire to have some texture left in the peppers meant that the allergen wasn’t completely destroyed. But at least a quick measure of antihistamine meant that the matter was quickly resolved.

Thursday, and after a long day I was quite glad we had cancelled the bell ringing practice and I settled down with something simple food-wise, which was served with broccoli. Now I’ve relied on this green vegetable all of the time since my OAS really began to misbehave and have always cooked it the same way for the same about of time without any incident.

I’m not sure what was different but somehow I missed the initial reaction sign of my neck becoming very stiff and it was only  as I lay in bed I realised my throat was on fire and realised that it was becoming ulcerated. A rush to the antihistamines probably helped in the long run but getting but getting up on Friday morning was a painful experience with the throat feeling like hot coals and an infected finger which had been troubling me all week was looking more like a beetroot.

Having got into work I found a colleague in serious pain having fallen from his bike so took him to the local A&E and whilst I was there got some advice about my digital beetroot. Armed with some pills and the knowledge that next week the finger will be frozen and sliced (their words, not mine) I have a week to look forward to……..


Come Saturday and thankfully the throat has been reined in and whilst still uncomfortable, it’s a lot better. Which is good given I’d booked a race for the afternoon.

The Langley 7 race is one I’ve intended to run for the last 7 years but only now I’ve managed to enter and run it. At roughly 7 miles, it’s a road race up the steep side of a hill and down the longer less steep side. No T-Shirt for this one – it’s a bottle of beer. Not entirely useful for a non-drinker but I’m sure it will be used or consumed sooner rather than later.

Langley 7

Langley 7

The hill was quite big and I had to walk the last part of the climb unfortunately. However I managed to get my legs working again for the descent and completed the course in 52 minutes (official time – 51:57 by my watch!) and so it was a good start to November, despite the best efforts of the last week in October.

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