My brother is allergic to raw carrots but has no reaction to cooked ones. How is this possible?
-- asks Tony from New York, NY.
Kristin Elise Phillips • October 15, 2006
If the spinach doesn't get you, the carrots might. [CREDIT: USDA]
The humble carrot, familiar fare for Bugs Bunny and armies of school children, can be a dangerous, even lethal, snack for a small number of people. Heating the carrot, however, can render them harmless to the allergic, according to a recent study.
But how could a little heat turn a vegetable from deadly to delectable? And how can a wholesome carrot be dangerous in the first place?
The carrots we buy in grocery stores are certainly not poisonous. The carrot, native to Afghanistan, is a root that has been grown and eaten for thousands of years. The typical orange variety was developed in 17th century Holland. Carrots are a good source of carotene, the compound that our bodies convert into Vitamin A.
This innocuous, nutritious vegetable is nonetheless dangerous to those people whose bodies react to it as a foreign invader. These people have immune systems that respond to carrots in ways that are usually reserved for illness-causing germs. No one really knows why this happens, but food allergies are becoming more common and seem to be on the rise in the industrialized world.
The cause of this proliferation may be excessive cleanliness. Today’s western children are exposed to fewer microbes not only because of the lack of dirt and germs in the foods they eat, but because they are more socially isolated than children in developing nations. Research has shown that children who attend daycare have fewer allergies than children who remain at home. Furthermore, both children and adults use antibiotics to combat microbes in their environments. In sterile environments, immune systems lack enemies, and may attack food proteins as if they were germs.
Our bodies are protected from germs by the antibodies that constantly roam the blood system looking for foreign invaders. For allergic people, antibodies target food proteins moonlighting as allergens. When antibodies detect an allergen, a reaction occurs. The body’s response to an allergen can cause a variety of symptoms from facial swelling to serious anaphylactic shock. In carrots, several proteins can cause a reaction.
Everyone knows that cooking carrots renders them mushy. A little heat breaks down the carrot’s cell walls, and turns this crunchy vegetable into perfect baby food. Heat, in fact, makes many vegetables more palatable. In their natural state, plants have ways to avoid being eaten. These defense mechanisms are called secondary compounds and can be poisonous to the eater. Most common crop plants have long since lost these harmful effects, and cooking some toxic wild plants can break down their toxins, making them edible.
When carrots are cooked, the potentially allergenic proteins within them unravel, rendering them safe from targeting by the immune system. According to a recent study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, these denatured carrot proteins can no longer bind to the posse of antibody scouts, and when antibodies cannot recognize allergens, a strong immune response does not occur. The same study found that cooked carrot protein can still activate a milder immune response that causes a less dangerous reaction. Some participants who ate cooked carrots did not swell up and suffer breathing problems, but did get rashes from the second type of immune response. Because of this, researchers recommended that people allergic to carrots avoid carrots in all forms, even though heating reduces risk.
Don’t run to the crisper and dump those carrots just yet, though. Not many people have bonafide food allergies. The FDA estimates that only about 1.5 percent of adults and six percent of children have some kind of food allergy. Children outgrow most allergies, and allergic adults are typically only allergic to a few foods. Allergies to carrots are most common in Europe, where up to 25 percent of people with a food allergy need to avoid this orange root. Some experts say that food allergies develop in adults because of previous sensitivity to pollen; the patient may become allergic to a variety of plants that contain proteins similar to those found in the pollen. For example, celery, which is related to carrots, mugwort, certain spices and birch pollen all contain the same allergenic carrot proteins that some people just can’t stomach.
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My son has had Oral Allergy Syndrome to carrots, celery , apples for a few yrs. He would complain of an “itchy” throat and at times I thought I noticed white papules on his posterior tongue after such fruits or veggies even in small quantities. Pediatrician said to just avoid–not a dangerous allergy and so we did. About a month ago he got an incidental carrot from a salad ( usually we made his salad separate but one snuck in) and within a few minutes he had a voice change and complaint of difficulty swallowing. I immediately gave Benadryl and was getting ready to go to Urgent care when he got better quickly. We were referred to allergist who confirmed he indeed had 4+reaction to celery and carrots and oral allergy syndrome to apples. She prescribed epipen and recommended avoidance…even for cooked. Cooked apples fine. He also has an allergy to several tree pollens, including birch. Just a note of caution if you think it’s just an “oral allergy syndrome” “not the dangerous kind” you may want to have it really evaluated by an allergist with testing to be sure. We were shocked!
My 9 year old daughter is allergic to raw and cooked carrots, so this makes shopping trips hectic and unless I know she has already ate a product then I have to read every single label and I have to train everyone who cares for her how to administer an epi-pen and I have to watch dates on the epi pen… I would hate to use an epi -pen because she would be very sick
Soy milk caused me yo rush to the ER…in the waiting room my girlfriend gave me a Zirtec, and i was fine. Throat was swelling and closing fast….. Today, snap peas did it to me. zirtec solved the pronlem. I also get a puns and needles feeling from carrot juice.
Glad I found this article. I’ve had a carrot allergy for years, and my son has hd oral allergy syndrome to apples (ER didn’t believe me that was why his mouth swelled). Anyone else get a rash to carrots as well? If I eat something with carrots in it by mistake, I get a very itchy rash that lasts up to 6 weeks in small areas of my body.
Wow. Am I glad I found this. F I developed this when I was about 7 ny mum didn’t believe me so she made me a glass of carrot juice from the juicer…my reaction was not life threatening but it was borderlining. Severe itchiness in throat ears mouth ingeneral and almost complete swelling of the throat. Since then I never ate raw carrot. Cooked no problem. My wife still does not believe me even trying to make me take a bite to prove that it is “all in my head”. That’s when I done the search and came across this. Thankfully :)
Since that day, over the course of my life I have developed intolerances to other foods. None life threatening but all with same symptoms. Itchiness of mouth, throat, pulsating of gums and itchy ear canal. These include hazelnuts, almonds, wallnuts, cherries, kiwi, strawberries, apple’s, pomegranates. All with different levels of reaction and all quite fine when cooked. Amazingly I am perfectly fine with peanuts, although my son is anaphylactic to them. Ironic. I do have hayfever for the record. It seems to be a common link in all of us.
When ever I peel carrott I get asthma attack. I have to puff the inhaler right away. I thought may be the fertiizer is the issue so I tried with organic carrott same thing happened. When I peel potato it is very mild however with carrott it definitely gives me asthma. Wheezing problem. I have noticed this for a while. I can eat carrott with no problem. Peeling is the problem. Why is that?
I am very allergic to carrot. Only to raw carrot. I can eat cooked carrot.
After read almost all the messages make me happy ( in some how ) found that I am not the only one,
Same as Adnan, my Mom don’t believe me she use to make me a glass of carrot juice, every time when I drink it was getting worst, now I am in this point that I can’t even eat or drink anything if was in contact with Raw carrots, that juts close my throat :( I need to have an epipen with me, just in case … Also happens if I eat a lot celery raw.
I was big fan of eat salads in the restaurants, but now I don’t like to take a chance, normally they are not sure if the use the same knife .
Any way it’s my way to living now, I just eat salads at home or with really close friends how are aware of my allergy.
I had a carrot juice drink in a restaurant last night, and had a terrible reaction (sneezing, itching, face on fire, eyes swollen, lips swollen, hives, and mild breathing difficulties). I took anti allergy pill and a few hours later a decongestant (my sinuses were really painful).
I’ve never noticed having an allergy to raw carrots, but I wonder if the restaurant prepares the raw ingredients the night before – and I’m suffering the reaction that poster #5 refers to?
So I have had a banana allergy since I was about 5 (very allergic), and following that I have developed allergies to peas, and then apples, and raw tomatoes. In recent years it seems I have had allergic reactions to more and more fruits and vegetables, particularily when they are raw. Some of these include oranges, clementines, occasional raspberries, strawberries, roast beef, and others I that are hard to keep track of. it gets exhausting to keep adding foods to this list as I really enjoy fruits but i cannot seem to figure out what is causing these allergies.
One interesting note, is that I studied abroad (I am 22) in Italy last year, and had access to a fresh produce market in town where most of the fruits and vegetables were grown locally in Italy (I suspect without GMOs), and I figured I would try a shot at eating some of the things I am less allergic to. In particular, tomatoes and oranges… Before I was unable to ever eat these raw, but I tried the italian ones and I had no reaction, boom. Then a couple of months pass and tomatoes are no longer in season so they begin importing them from other places, and I start to have reactions.
Don’t know if anybody else has these common allergies and know what might link them? I wonder also if it could be the preservatives used to prepare them for shipping?
While I also have the throat and voice reaction to carrots cooked and raw as well as celery. I have to use an albuterol and QVar inhaler to stop coughing and there may be many more that precipitate hoarseness I was wondering if any of you know about nightshade arthritis? Night shades are tomatoes, any kind of peppers (except black), eggplant, tobacco, and sadly white potatoes. Those of you who have this will hurt all over. Think you have arthritis or fibromyalgia. Try eating Mexican or Italian food and then use some Italian dressing (the kind with little bits of carrot :) ). If you find yourself in excruciating pain all over for several days you may want to Google Nightshade Arthritis.
Also Mel Blanc the voice of Bugs Bunny was severely allergic to carrots! And rye bread I would imagine.
I have been allergic to raw carrots and celery since childhood. I am 49 now. I’m also DEATH allergic to nuts from trees including coconut. I’m allergic to fish but NOT allergic to shellfish or mollusks. Finally I’m allergic to black Eyed Peas and cantalope, tomatoes, bananas and watermellon. There is no cure for my allergies which saddens me. I would love to try pecan pie or Salmon.
I’m not alone in there! How nice that is.
I have several allergies (including raw carrots while I have no problem with cooked carrots).
I used to have a mild reaction to cantaloupe and to some nuts (especially when eating raw). I used to have a reaction to apricots and celery as well but not anymore apparently.
I am really curious to know how it is possible for allergies to come and go.
I probably did something right by desensitizing myself for some of them.
I am still however avoiding raw carrots like the pleague as even simply peeling them gives me a skin reactions.
After my allergic reaction I went to an allergy clinic in London (UK) and as part of the session, was given a sheet of notes with the following information:
Birch Oral Allergy
Birch oral allergy is when the body mistakes proteins in foods for the birch pollen protein. This commonly causes an itchy mouth, and sometimes a swollen tongue after eating certain fruits, vegetables and nuts. Most individuals will also get hayfever symptoms in May and April (the birch pollen season). Usually these symptoms are not serious and are very unlikely to cause dangerous allergic reactions.
Common foods which may cause symptoms:
Apple, Peach, Pear, Nectarine, Carrot, Potato, Fennel, Spinach, Walnut, Peanuts, Cherries, Plum, Honey
Other pollens which may cause food related symptoms:
Mugwort – Celergy, Spices, Watermelon, Camomile tea, Carrot, Melon, Apple
Grasses – Melon, Watermelon, Tomato, Wheat, Swiss Chard
Ragweed (uncommon in UK) – Melon, Honey, Sunflower seeds, Camomile tea, Bananas
Pine – pine nuts
Hazel – Hazelnuts, Cobnuts
Pellitory – Cherry, Melon
Some people who react to raw fruits and vegetables find that they can tolerate them cooked.
Hi all –
Really great to find this article and especially the comments from everyone.
I too have an allergy to raw carrots but not cooked ones!
It’s kind of reassuring to know that I’m not alone!
I’m not someone who is typically sensitive to things but sometimes raw carrots just seem to get me. Typical symptoms include heartburn and a severe indigestion feeling, almost like a mild cardiac arrest! Choking and difficulty breathing.
Interested to hear from others who get the same.
Cheers guys :-)
If you want to get much from this article then you have to apply such strategies to your won blog.
I too was so happy to read this, finally I can tell my family and friends I’m not just a picky eater, there was a reason I didn’t like eating certain foods. My list is growing every year but atleast I got to eat these foods up until my late teens when I first developed seasonal spring allegies, only when the trees start to bud do I get the itchy eyes, scratchy throat and sneezing. Carrots like many was the first to get me thinking, I too got the itchy mouth/lips sore throat and then extremely paralyzing pains in my back and chest area. Then one night I was cracking open hazelnuts, I think around the forth one I ate I started to get the itchy throat, so I stopped, within 2-3 minutes I could barely breath, I layed on my couch with my head tilted back just to breath, after 20-25 minutes the throat swelling went down and I only had the severe back pain. Needless to say this was the start of my new strict diet. My list so far: Carrots, Almonds, Peanuts, Hazlenuts, Apples, Watemelon, Bananas, Celery, Cherries, Romane lettuce, Green grapes, Oranges..Age 37 now, Thank you so much for this site..Keith
Thank you for this article and these comments. I am also allergic to raw carrots. Additionally, I am allergic to raw apples, raw peaches, raw celery, raw mangos, raw kiwi, raw bean sprouts, and who knows what else. I can, however, eat peach cobbler all day and carrot soufflé (Picadilly style). I didn’t develop these allergies until the 4th grade. Apples are my favorite fruit. Really the only thing I can eat raw, safely, is lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, bananas (which I hate) and grapes. I’ve had a mild reaction to too many strawberries. I might be ok with blueberries, but don’t like those much. Enough about me… Thanks again! Oh and I have never been clinically diagnosed.
I also have a severe allergy to raw carrots, celery, potatoes, and more. I have noticed that the older the fruit or vegetable is, the more ripe it is, the worse my reaction tends to be.
I keep liquid Benadryl on hand for times I accidentally come in contact with these fruits and veggies. Has anyone noticed their allergy is worse the riper the food?
I love the taste of raw carrots, hate the taste of cooked carrots, not allergic to either and this has nothing to do with texture. Obviously there’s some biochemistry involved when carrots are cooked that results in a very different flavor. Hope some entity scientifically studies this and can supply a detailed definitive answer as to cause – also the percentage of people that hate cooked carrots. This has ramifications for companies that specialize in processed foods (e.g., beef stew, chicken soup, etc.).
Wow, this is crazy. I have grown up with hundreds of people and met thousands more. I have NEVER met anyone who is also allergic to RAW carrots. Cooked carrots have no effect on me. But raw carrots, my throat closes and it’s very difficult to breath.
Since I found out this effect, I’ve pretty much avoided raw carrots like the plague. But one day about 15 years ago, I thought, let’s see if I’m still allergic.
It took about 2 hours before I could breath normally again.
I’ll never do that again.
But strangely enough I haven’t noticed it with anything else.
But it is nice to know that I am not the only one out there.
Me too! Allergic to carrots and normally people look at me like I’m kidding. It started when I was a kid and was prepping some carrots. Somehow I touched my eyes and they just got so swollen. Once a tiny 2 mm piece touched the back of my throat and I was weezing for hours. It was great to read your responses and see that I too have had reactions to several other fruits and veggies. It’s a little bit of a struggle since I’m a vegetarian but I just end up cooking and roasting a lot. Peppers, sprouts, apples and cherries are also culprits. I will stay away from birch and mugwort then. Cheers!
Raw carrots-even the ubiquitous slivers in pre packaged salads will make my throat swell, and cause the roof of my mouth and tongue to itch maddeningly.
The same can be said of certain types of apples-except i don’t know which ones. Some apples I can eat without any adverse effects, and some make me wish I had choked on it instead. Every juicy green or red one is a gamble I hardly ever win.
This reaction (for I cannot say for certain if it’s an allergy) also occurs with pecans, walnuts and raw almonds (but not the roasted ones) but not with celery, cherries or any of the myriad other fruits, nuts and veggies commonly associated with this protein.
This also didn’t develop until my teenage years-I used to eat shredded carrots by the bag when I was younger.
Maybe someday it’ll go away as mysteriously as it came.
I just developed an allergy to carrots. Well it is carrot juice. I developed a rash on mu hands and feet after drinking carrot juice. At first I did not know why I had the rash. The second time in 4 days that I drank the carrot juice I immediately got a major rash and itching. It was not in my mouth but on my arms and legs.
Yep… the humble raw carrot gets me too. I find that it is a thousand times worse when I consume while I have hay fever. I normally get itchy, swollen eyes, tingly lets on hands and break out in persistent hives with fresh carrot juice.. while they drive me nuts they usually clear up in about 6 hours… but yesterday i had a juice and i am currently nick named Sneezy!… My breathing became so bad.. elephant on chest. interestingly enough the carrots were getting older (re above post about ageing fruit) I used to blame the pesticides used in the “Deadly Dozen” fruit and veggies but when the immunity is low I have found with me it really makes little difference. Id love to get to the bottom of this problem because I feel I am missing out on the benefits of raw veg… sooo glad that Im not alone with this issue!
I have allergy to raw carrot, it started when i turned ca. 30. I had a relatively mild reaction for a few years, and then one day i had anaphylaxis. Almost died. I have to carry an epi-pen and obviously i don’t eat carrots (cooked are Ok, i love them). The etiology of that allergy is most likely a cross-sensitization by birch pollen. Somewhere, somehow, we get exposed to birch pollen while having a cold or flu, and – voila. There maybe other mechanisms, of course.
I would like to warn all carrot allergy sufferers that other foods that may get you are celery, tomatoes, apples (green ones especially), sunflower seeds, and parsley. Especially if eaten in large quantity, raw, and on empty stomach.
I’m so glad I came across this website. I suffer from some of the exact symptoms as described here when eating raw foods such as carrots, nectarines, apples, cherries, and some nuts. So weird. I’ve had it for ages but didn’t think it was a thing and thought it was all in my head – but so glad I’ve found other people who react similarly. Does anyone do anything when it happens – I’m currently having a slight reaction to raw carrot – my own fault! Do antihistamines help? Glad I found this. Thanks guys!
My mouth becomes very tingly when I eat raw carrots but no reaction at all to cooked ones.
I love carrotts, but have a harder time with raw. Today I was eating a organic carrott and my throat and chest felt heavy. I felt that I needed throw up and did so many times. Still I felt that nothing could go down. Tried drinking water and it just stopped. Threw up again. It was probably a good hour before I felt somewhat ok. It’s now 6 hrs later and I can still feel a small discomfort. I can eat cooked with no problem.
Funny thing is that I cannot eat apples, plums, peas and some oranges. I’m sure with apples it’s GMOs as this allergy started in the 80s
I’m 49, my earliest recollection of allergy symptoms was as a young child. I would eat celery with peanut butter and have the sensation of swallowing a string. Back then there was no such thing as celery or carrot allergies…or ADD for that matter. I self diagnosed with the Buffalo Wing movement in full swing as mass consumption of celery and carrots took it’s toll on my ability to breathe…but everyone thought I was making it up as they watched me eat cooked veggies without incident. As a side note, I have a different reaction to eating raw pecans as they make me feel as though I’m being stabbed in my diaphragm…there again, roast them a few minutes and no problems. Since I stopped eating raw carrots and celery, not only have I stopped having any allergic reactions but the women I’m dating seem to be much less crazy…coincidence??
Thank you for this informative site. As a child I lived on raw carrots and other raw vegetables. Now suddenly at the age of 60 I can no longer eat raw carrots or celery. Cucumbers don’t seem to be a problem and cooked vegetables seem to be alright. When I eat raw carrots my mouth and throat begin to itch and then my mouth starts to salivate followed by a tightness in my chest and coughing. I so miss my raw carrots. My husband is into juicing and uses a lot of carrots. I keep trying a little bit of juice at a time to see if I can build up a tolerance for these vegetables again but so far it’s not working.
I have two daughters,one with multiple allergies, raw carrots for sure, and the other, free of any allergies. Go figure. And I have no allergies . I logged onto this site hoping it would lead me to some process that would remove the allergens from raw carrots. But it’s not to be.
I wish you all the best in your quests.
Today I had the worst reaction to raw carrots ever. Scared the life out of me. Currently on holiday in Ibiza. I stupidly had a juice for breakfast which obs contained carrot. I suffer from birch allergy. Can’t even be in the same room as someone peeling a carrot or potato without getting sore eyes, wheezing and sneezing
First symptom was a tingly throat, then extremely tingly itchy hands. By the time I got back to the villa my entire body was covered in a risen rash and bright red. My throat and nose felt completely blocked. I took an antihistamine and the ambulance crew gave me more through a drip. Much better now, just a sore throat.
As soon as I’m home I will be seeing my doctor in London about an EpiPen and putting me in contact with the top London immunologist. If I get answers…I’ll be back to tell you all! Z xx
I believe I have a carrot allergy as well. I eat raw carrots and my throat feels as if it’s closing. I lose my breath, my face gets numb, and I get the hiccups. This lasts for several minutes and only time and sips of water seem to fix it.
I’m very allergic to raw carrots too but I can eat it when cooked or steamed. It started about 5yrs ago, my voice changes n my throat begins to swell with 5minutes of eating. Thank God I have another food allergies so I always carry liquid benadryl with me.
I have had this allergy for as long as I can remember. I found that I don’t get a reaction, or a very slight one (sore mouth, itchy throat) if I microwaving the raw carrots for 15 sec first before eating. I guess that means they’re no longer raw, but they still taste raw. Hope this helps.
Aged 62 started getting very itchy hives anywhere on body. Could be carrot allergy no other real symptoms?
Symptoms include swollen eyes, very swollen cheeks inside the mouth. Has anyone else had swollen cheeks, Could this be a carrot, celery, allergy?
Wow, if I eat more than 3 or 4 small “baby carrots’ I start to sneeze like it’s the middle of summer (hay fever). I’ve never had any of the other reactions. I also get that way if I eat too many snow peas. When I was pregnant I was given a blood test for allergies and was told I had a 4 for Avocado, kiwi, and chestnuts with a very low (I think a 1) for banana. I don’t even remember consuming a chestnut. But my husband is Chinese and I do occasionally eat some of his snacks, so who knows? Carrots were not mentioned, I also had a low for latex, which was what they were actually looking for. But for many years I have these sneezing fits when I eat carrots, so now that all makes sense. And it’s so sad, becasue I enjoy them but I don’t want to make myself sick. I usually don’ teat any of the other foods (banana, avocado, kiwi or chestnut) but I do occasionally eat cooked carrots.
My carrot issue started as a young child but was probably OAS. However as I got older I started having esophageal spasms when I ate raw carrots but had no problems with cooked carrots. Fast forward a few years and then I started having problems with cooked carrots as well and now have full blown anaphylactis with them either way. My food allergies are odd. I’m highly allergic to latex and many foods cross react and the body thinks they are latex. I have a horrible lettuce allergy and there’s some studies that are showing it’s related to latex. All I know is it’s a pain. I feel for others with carrot allergies. One of the items I found out that have carrots in it is marinara spaghetti sauce. It’s hit and miss and you have to ask at restaurants. I have found most restaurants have generally a meat sauce that doesn’t have carrots in it.
I’m the same way. Just realized today that I can’t eat raw carrots. Minutes after eating them/during eating them, I was sneezing. Stuffy nose, irritated and itchy eyes, coughing, the works. Resembles typical allergy symptoms. Then my chest started hurting, but sipping water helped with that.
I have noticed that I can eat cooked carrots in bihon, a Filipino noodle dish. So mine’s just allergies to raw carrots.
To those of you out there who are allergic as well…we’re rare. :) Not many people are allergic to carrots.
I also am unable to eat raw carrots and have noticed milder symptoms with celery. Cooked, no problems. However, today I was shredding a carrot (which I’ve never had a problem with before) and when I was finished, the hand I had the carrot in started itching and tingling like crazy!!! Never had that happen before! Guess I won’t be handling carrots without gloves from now on!