Food allergy

Crunchy green beans, crisp snap peas or homegrown tomatoes right off the vine — for many people, you just can’t beat the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the garden. Unless you are Kathryn Boster. 

Kathryn, a 16-year-old girl from Braham has what many kids can only dream of: a legitimate reason not to eat her vegetables. 

When she takes a bite of an apple or a carrot her body reacts in a range of ways, from a slight itching and soreness in her mouth to hives and airway construction. 

“We discovered her allergy when she was 9 years old and broke out in hives on her face and neck after eating an apple,” said Kathryn’s mom, Kari Boster.  “We were surprised because she’d eaten apples quite frequently prior to this without incident. From there, multiple uncooked fruits/vegetables began causing varying allergic reactions.”

Kathryn has oral allergy syndrome which is not your typical food allergy. Karen actually has a pollen allergy, but the proteins of some fresh fruits and veggies have similar structures to that pollen, causing an allergic reaction. 

The good news, those proteins are changed through cooking, freezing or canning. So while a fresh apple is out, apples baked in a pie are fair game. 

Navigating the line at a pot luck took some getting used to and sometimes Kathryn would need to inquire about what was in each dish to make sure it was safe. Still, she and family have adjusted to it. 

Like any mom would, Kari does her best to make sure her daughter gets enough nutrition with the foods she is able to eat. 

“We consume a lot less salad than we used to,” Kari said.  “It is, of course, disappointing for her to not be able to enjoy all the fresh fruits and vegetables she would otherwise consume (including those delicious caramel apples). On the bright side, not many people can honestly say they’re allergic to salad...many a kid dreams of having a legitimate reason to not have to eat those veggies, right?”

Oral Allergy Syndrome

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, oral allergy syndrome doesn’t appear in young children, but might manifest in teens or young adults.

People with OAS typically are allergic to birch pollen, ragweed or grass pollens. 

For each pollen allergy, different foods often act as triggers. For example, someone with a birch pollen allergy like Kathryn can be triggered by apples, carrots or hazelnuts. Someone with a grass pollen allergy might be triggered by celery or tomatoes. Ragweed pollen allergies can be triggered by zucchini. 

Some individuals may show an allergy to only one particular food, like a strawberry, while others may have an allergic response to many foods. 

Symptoms of OAS include itchy or scratchy mouths and throats or swelling of lips and tongue. The severity of reactions fluctuates, but it is rare that OAS can cause a severe or life-threatening reaction.

Kathryn carries an antihistamine with her, just in case she experiences an allergic reaction. 

According to Stanford Health Care, oral allergy syndrome occurs in a large number of people with pollen allergies —up to 70%. 

For the Boster family, managing these allergens has become a part of daily life. Kari’s only request of others: “Please be considerate when asked not to consume an offending food close to someone who has an allergy.”

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