Can Pollen Allergy Shots Be Used to Treat Oral Allergy Syndrome?

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Published: May 1, 2019
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Q: If a teen with an intense pollen allergy to birch and with oral allergy syndrome (OAS) to many foods undergoes immunotherapy to pollen, will her OAS symptoms also disappear – or at least be reduced?

Dr. Sicherer: Oral allergy syndrome, also called pollen food allergy syndrome, is characterized by having an itchy mouth and throat from a variety of raw fruits and vegetables that have proteins inside of them that resemble pollen proteins.

People may develop this type of food allergy after becoming pollen allergic. Pollen allergy can lead to hay fever and asthma symptoms and pollen immunotherapy (often called “allergy shots”) is an effective means to treat these problems.

It seems logical to expect that if you can control the pollen allergy with these treatments, the OAS would also improve. Unfortunately, there are not many studies on this, and the ones that do exist show mixed results, including no meaningful improvement in the OAS despite the hay fever improving.

There are a few reports of people developing OAS while on pollen immunotherapy.

Based on the medical literature, experts do not recommend pursuing pollen immunotherapy solely to attempt to treat OAS. However, if allergy shots are recommended for the respiratory allergy, there may be some chance that the OAS could improve.

Dr. Scott Sicherer is a practicing allergist, clinical researcher and professor of pediatrics. He is Director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute and Chief of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. He’s also the author of Food Allergies: A Complete Guide for Eating When Your Life Depends On It.

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