An allergic reaction can be triggered after ingesting the skin or pulp of green or dried figs, fresh fig fruit or from commercial fig extracts. There is also a possibility for sensitivity to occur after inhaling pollen from the fruit or trees or by direct handling. Some individuals are highly sensitive to the latex from the unripe fruits and any part of the tree.
Overview on fig trees
The fig tree is considered indigenous to Western Asia and has been cultivated for centuries. There are thousands of varieties of fig trees that have various uses such as for their fruit, rubber or as ornamental plants.
The pear-shaped fig is actually a swollen flower stalk. Figs can be eaten raw and fresh, unpeeled or peeled. They are also commercially canned and even dried as jams and even baked products such as puddings, pies, bread and cakes.
Causes of fig allergy
If the skin is exposed to fig or the plants, it can trigger an allergic reaction among highly sensitive individuals. The root sap and leaf of the fig tree usually causes more reactions than the immature fruit and other parts of the tree. This might be due to the presence of bergapten and psoralen that have the capability to generate phototoxic dermatitis.
Handling of latex from unripe fruits that is utilized to create meat tenderizer, clarify beverages and render fat can also trigger allergies. Those who harvest the fruit, workers and packers in the food industry are susceptible to this type of sensitivity. Even though many of the allergens in the extract are lost by heating, some individuals can become allergic to all types of figs.
Can cross-allergies to figs occur?
Individuals who are allergic to figs are more hypersensitive to breadfruit, banyan, Osage-orange and mulberry. Fig has similar antigens with birch pollen, grass and weeping fig. Take note that fresh figs are not well tolerated as the dried figs.
What are the symptoms?
If an individual ingests figs, it can trigger allergic symptoms that might include the following:
- Sore throat
- Stuffed nose
- Abdominal pain
Individuals who have low tolerance to the salicylates present in latex from figs might end up with asthma-like symptoms, nasal congestion, headaches, hives or skin rash, itchiness, stomach pain as well as swollen feet, hands or face. In severe cases, anaphylaxis or a severe allergic reaction can develop which involves an abrupt drop in the blood pressure, loss of consciousness and even death.