Citrus Allergy: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recommendations

Citrus fruits are characterized by their antioxidant phytonutrient content. However, it is possible to develop a citrus allergy.
Citrus Allergy: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recommendations
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Written and verified by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Citrus allergy usually brings typical symptomatology that makes its diagnosis simple. While it’s a rare problem, it can affect a person’s diet. It’s important to keep in mind that these fruits are able to provide important nutrients, such as vitamin C.

In the citrus group, we find a large number of fruits that have a significant concentration of citric acid inside. For example, lemons, grapefruit, and oranges. It has considerable antioxidant power and experts recommend consuming it on a regular basis.

Causes of citrus allergy

The phenomenon we know as a citrus allergy occurs because the immune system interprets certain proteins, which act as antigens, as harmful. From the first exposure, the immune system produces a defense response with a variety of symptoms.

Experts believe that there may be a genetic component that determines the appearance of this allergy. Although environmental factors, such as excessive hygiene or little exposure to these products also play a role. In fact, experts say that excessive cleaning measures on these fruits may be one of the underlying reasons.

A variety of citrus fruits.
Citrus fruits contain vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that should be in the diet, as long as there’s no allergy.

To know more: Allergens in Food Labeling

Symptoms of the disorder

After the ingestion of citrus fruits, the allergic person begins to develop characteristic symptoms. These include the appearance of red spots on the skin or itching. If this is the case, it’s important to obtain an antihistamine with a doctor’s prescription. This will reduce the discomfort the allergy has caused.

It’s important to keep in mind that consuming a food that produces an allergic reaction may result in diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas, and even vomiting. Although these signs will depend on the degree of intensity of the reaction itself.

Don’t forget to read: Everything You Need to Know About Lactose Intolerance

The diagnosis of citrus allergy

The diagnosis of this allergy involves exposure to the food and subsequent measurement of immunoglobulins in the blood. Contact with the product in question can sometimes be enough, as this causes the appearance of skin irritation.

However, sometimes it’s necessary for the person to ingest a small sample. This is in order to assess how certain biochemical parameters related to the functioning of the immune system are altered.

Alternatives to citrus fruits

Once the problem has been diagnosed, the person should avoid citrus fruits in their diet. Otherwise, they could put health at risk. However, this doesn’t mean that they should reduce their intake of antioxidants. Research has revealed that these compounds neutralize the formation of free radicals.

It’s important to avoid the intake of sauces and dressings, as many of them usually contain lemon or orange in their composition. Rather, you can replace them with vinaigrettes or homemade dressings that don’t contain citrus fruits.

Also, it’s important to remember that vitamin C intake is capable of ensuring the proper functioning of the immune system, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients. In order to ensure that the dietary requirements are met, those with a citrus allergy should increase their intake of bell peppers or resort to the use of supplements if necessary.

Oranges are an important source of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that should be present in the diet. In the case of a citrus allergy, the use of supplements should be evaluated.

Treatment for citrus allergy

At present, there’s no treatment that’s proven effective in eliminating citrus allergy. With pharmacological help, it’s possible to control the symptoms. However, this isn’t a solution, as it can cause internal damage.

Currently, different treatments based on immunotherapy are being tested with the aim of offering a solution in the future. However, at present, they’re not available to the general public and are in the experimental phase.

Citrus allergy is a rare condition

Fortunately, citrus allergy has a low incidence in the population. However, it’s a pathology that can condition a person’s diet and that has no solution today.

In the case of being diagnosed, it’s crucial to ensure that this doesn’t affect vitamin C intake. So, affected individuals should increase their intake of peppers or go to a specialist to assess supplementation with a product containing the nutrient.

In conclusion, deficiency could cause a malfunction of the immune system, as well as problems in the absorption of iron at an intestinal level. Therefore, if you suspect that you may suffer from citrus allergy, go to a specialist to perform the appropriate diagnostic tests.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ege MJ. The Hygiene Hypothesis in the Age of the Microbiome. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2017
  • Sharma GN, Gupta G, Sharma P. A Comprehensive Review of Free Radicals, Antioxidants, and Their Relationship with Human Ailments. Crit Rev Eukaryot Gene Expr. 2018;28(2):139-154.
  • Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 3;9(11):1211.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.