The Facts About a Mango Allergy

Reactions range from annoying to life-threatening

Mango on cutting board

​Verywell / Zorica Lakonic

The mango's captivating reddish-yellow or reddish-green hues belie the hazards that can lurk right below the surface.

One culprit? Oral allergy syndrome (OAS), a cross-reaction between certain pollens and fruits that the body recognizes as being the same. It's the most mild of three potential reactions. In fact, the mango (Mangifera indica) stands apart in its ability to cause an allergic reaction.

As the national fruit of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, the mango is grown on a tree that belongs to the cashew family Anacardiaceae. This is the same family of plants that include poison oak, poison sumac, and poison ivy. The distinction can make eating mango problematic for some people and downright dangerous for others.

This article discusses several types of reactions you might encounter after biting into a mango, stemming from oral allergy syndrome, contact dermatitis, or anaphylaxis.

Did You Know?

A food allergy is "essentially your body misreading a type of food, classifying it as dangerous, and overreacting."

Mango and Oral Allergy Syndrome

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is typically a minor, uncomplicated allergy that occurs almost immediately after eating a piece of fresh fruit. It usually resolves without treatment, and it does so within minutes.

OAS occurs as a result of similarities in the proteins found in mangoes and pollens (most often birch pollen or mugwort pollen). Strangely enough, having a latex allergy can also cause OAS symptoms when eating mango, a condition referred to as latex-fruit syndrome.

The diagnosis of OAS is typically made with skin testing to confirm whether there is a cross-reaction between mango and commonly associated allergens. OAS is usually not considered a serious condition as the saliva in a person’s mouth is usually able to break down the allergen quickly. As such, any response is usually limited to the mouth and/or lips.

However, due to the relatively small risk of a more serious reaction, people with a mango allergy are advised to avoid all raw forms of the fruit. Cooked mango rarely poses a problem.

Mango and Contact Dermatitis

Another type of reaction that can occur as a result of eating mango is something called contact dermatitis. This is due specifically to a substance found in plants of the Anacardiaceae family called urushiol. In mango, urushiol is found in high concentrations in the peel and the fruit just beneath the peel.

In most people, contact with urushiol will cause an allergic skin response, such as a rash. With mango, the allergy may not be as common as, say, poison oak or poison ivy but, in some cases, it can be just as profound.

Urushiol is the substance that causes rashes from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

The reaction, which resembles a poison oak rash, most often occurs on the face within hours of eating the fruit. It can last for several days. The rash will appear as small, itchy blisters that can sometimes ooze.

This type of mango allergy isn’t dangerous or life-threatening. But it can be uncomfortable and annoying. Treatment, when needed, involves a topical or oral corticosteroid, depending on the severity of symptoms.

The diagnosis can be made based on the appearance of the rash. Testing is usually not required. If the reaction is especially severe, patch testing (done on the skin) may be used to confirm whether mango is, in fact, the cause of the rash.

Don't Delay Calling 911

Without exception and without delay, call 911 if you or someone you know experiences a sudden, severe reaction to mango.

Mango and Anaphylaxis

In rare instances, a severe allergic reaction can result from eating a mango. Known as anaphylaxis, the response usually occurs within minutes of eating the fruit and may trigger any number of symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest tightness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Facial swelling
  • Fainting
  • Hives
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing

In some cases, the person’s condition can rapidly deteriorate and lead to coma, shock, cardiac or respiratory arrest, and even death.

Persons who have experienced severe allergic symptoms after eating cashew or pistachios should also avoid mango due to potential cross-reactivity. Those at risk of anaphylaxis should always carry injectable epinephrine (such as the EpiPen) in the event of accidental exposure to mango or any cross-reactive substance. It's known as the "drug of choice" in reversing the effects of anaphylaxis.

Summary

If you're going to develop a food allergy after eating a mango, you'd probably choose oral allergy syndrome. As its name implies, it occurs when the mouth and throat come into contact with a raw fruit. It usually triggers itchiness or swelling of the mouth, tongue, lip, throat, and face. It's also short-lived and less uncomfortable and annoying than contact dermatitis. It can spawn a rash that can sometimes ooze. But these conditions pale in comparison to anaphylaxis. It can swiftly set off a wide range of reactions, including breathing difficulties, rapid heartbeat, and chest tightness. In the very worst cases, people can suffer cardiac arrest and even perish from anaphylaxis. Learning the facts about mango allergies can be jarring but can also help you prepare to offset them.

A Word From Verywell

You may be worried that you have a food allergy. Or perhaps you want to rule one out. Either way, the only way to be sure is to undergo a food allergy test. Call your healthcare provider to see what they offer. You may be presented with a full menu of choices, just with skin tests alone. Depending on your preference, you may pick a skin prick, skin injection, or patch test. You may also have the option of taking a food test (for which you eat and monitor your reactions) or a blood test. Most allergy tests are simple and minimally invasive and are over in less than an hour. Many people find that the results of a food allergy test can help make sense of reactions that previously made no sense at all.

Food Allergies Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a delayed allergic reaction to mango?

    A delayed allergic reaction to mangoes can take up to seven days to appear after exposure. This is known as a delayed (type IV) hypersensitivity reaction. The reaction often appears in the form of contact dermatitis, or a skin rash that shows up on the lips and skin around the mouth. However, it can affect any area of the body.

  • Is mango related to poison ivy?

    Yes, mango is related to poison ivy. In fact, they belong to the same family of plants called Anacardiaceae, which also include poison oak and poison sumac.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Asthma Allergy Centre. How do you get tested for food allergies?

  2. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) or pollen fruit syndrome (PFS).

  3. Ukleja-Sokołowska N, Gawrońska-Ukleja E, Lis K, Żbikowska-Gotz M, Sokołowski Ł, Bartuzi Z. Anaphylactic reaction in patient allergic to mango. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2018;14:78. doi:10.1186/s13223-018-0294-1.

  4. Sareen R, Shah A. Hypersensitivity manifestations to the fruit mangoAsia Pac Allergy. 2011;1(1):43-49. doi:10.5415/apallergy.2011.1.1.43.

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