Alergic Reactions to Kiwifruit

Almost all foods can produce an allergic reaction in some sensitive people. The most common foods to give allergic responses are wheat flour and cows’ milk, followed by other foods such as oranges, shellfish and so on.

The first reports of allergic reactions to kiwifruit occurred in 1981 when the fruit became more common. The prevalence of kiwifruit allergy is less common in food allergic individuals than with most other foods but the reaction to the allergen is important because of the frequency in people with other sensitivities.

Symptoms

Primarily, the reaction is described as an anaphylactic response; that is, it is a swelling of the tongue and throat that can make breathing difficult. In a very few severe cases, treatment by a doctor or a hospital may be necessary, particularly in young children.

Other symptoms include marked swelling and itching of lips and tongue within a few minutes of eating kiwifruit, sometimes with gnawing pains in the stomach, maybe vomiting. Itchy nose and eyes may also be experienced.

The symptoms usually disappear within 30 minutes.

Cause

The reaction is due to the presence of the enzyme actinidin in kiwifruit. It is also the primary protein in kiwifruit, it being unusual for fruit to contain protein.

In Hayward, actinidin represents around 1% of the fresh weight and it is present in all Actinidia species. However, we have not measured the level in chinensis (or Kiwifruit SunGold) as yet.

Relief

Although the symptoms will disappear within 30 minutes as the body’s immune system responds, in those severely affected, or in very young children, a doctor or hospital may inject antihistamines to quickly relieve the symptoms.

Other Foods Likely to Cause Similar Symptoms

Although individuals will vary, other foods containing similar chemicals are likely to give an allergic response. These include:

  • Papaya, figs and pineapple.
  • Avocado and banana contain related proteins that can give a similar response in sensitive individuals.
  • Raw carrots, celery and lettuce can also produce similar reactions. However, cooking may well enable sensitive people to tolerate carrots and celery.
  • Pollen, particularly birch pollen, but also daisy, dandelion and sunflower pollens (often found in honeys) will produce similar reactions as can grass pollen. Those allergic to grass pollen will report adverse food reactions more frequently than those allergic, for example, to dust mites.

Other conditions that may give rise to reactions:

  • Latex (for example, rubber gloves) and house dust mites are the most frequent other causes of allergic reactions in those who are allergic to kiwifruit.

For more information, please consult your doctor.