Overview of Mango Allergy

Urushiol is the likely culprit of your symptoms

Mangos can cause an allergic reaction in some people, although it is extremely uncommon. Most allergic reactions to mango are skin rashes, which usually develop in response to touching the peel.

If you have a mango allergy, you may be able to eat mangos if you don't come into contact with the peel. However, some mango allergies are so severe that you have to avoid mangos altogether.

Symptoms

There are two types of reactions to mangos —one is a rash and the other is a severe anaphylactic reaction, in which symptoms involve more than just the area around the mouth.

Mango Induced Skin Rash

A mango-induced rash called contact dermatitis is the most common allergic response to mangos. The rash usually involves the lips and the skin around the mouth, but it can affect any area of the body, including the fingers and hands.

It's important to note that the skin rash may not occur for up to two days following exposure–this is called a delayed (type IV) hypersensitivity reaction.

The more your skin is exposed to mango, the quicker the rash tends to pop up, and the more severe it is. 

Symptoms of mango-induced contact dermatitis include redness, itching, swelling, and the flaking of skin. Blisters resembling a poison ivy rash may also develop.

It is the peel of the mango, as opposed to the pulp, that typically triggers a rash. In fact, many people who develop contact dermatitis after eating mangos don’t experience any symptoms if they cut up the mango and eat it without the peel touching their skin.

A mango-induced rash is more commonly described after mango-picking or coming into contact with the plant's branches or leaves, as the plant itself contains urushiol, the substance that typically triggers the rash.

Anaphylactic Reaction

Sometimes, a mango allergy can trigger more than just a superficial rash and can cause a severe allergic reaction, characterized by a sore throat, swelling, changes in blood pressure, and difficulty breathing.

Some people may develop an allergic reaction to the mango pulp, although this is far less common than an allergy to the mango peel.

Causes

Poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac all contain urushiol, an oil found within the Anacardiaceae plant family. This oil can cause allergic reactions upon contact. Urushiol is also found in the sap, skin, stem, and leaf of mangos.

So, just as contact with poison ivy or oak may trigger an allergic skin rash in some people, exposure to mangos may result in a similar reaction.

Diagnosis

Most people can tell if they have a food allergy when there is a clear cause and effect. If you recall eating mangos prior to developing a rash, you might see the link as obvious. However, if you are traveling, exposed to other new foods or skin products, or if you have eaten mangoes = without developing a reaction in the past, the link may not be so obvious.

If you develop a rash, you should see a doctor to get a diagnosis, especially if it is rapidly worsening. There are several tests used to identify the cause of a skin allergy, including a skin prick or patch test, which can confirm the allergen.

A blood test known as a radioallergosorbent test (RAST) may be used if a coexisting skin disease, such as eczema or psoriasis, makes a skin test hard to interpret. In most cases, though, a skin test is a more accurate, faster, and less expensive option.

Treatment and Prevention

Avoiding contact with mango peel is usually an effective way to prevent a rash.

If you have a tendency to develop anaphylactic reactions, you may need to carry an epi pen, because it can be impossible to know for certain whether prepared foods contain the ingredients that you are allergic to.

The anaphylactic reaction can be dangerous and requires emergency medical treatment.

When to Call 911

Call 911 or seek emergency care if you experience the following after eating a mango: vomiting, shortness of breath, wheezing, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, or the swelling of the tongue, throat, or face.

Typically, the skin rash resolves on its own in a few days. Over-the-counter anti-itch creams may provide some relief of the discomfort, but they usually do not take away the rash itself.

Treating Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis around the mouth caused by a reaction to urushiol may respond well to low-dose topical steroids. If the rash persists, your doctor may consider treatment with prednisone (a steroid taken by mouth).

A Word From Verywell

If you develop unusual symptoms after eating any food, be sure to check with your doctor before eating any more of the suspect food.

In the case of a mango allergy, you should avoid contact with mangos, as well as poison ivy, poison oak, and other members of the Anacardiaceae plant family. It's worth noting that pistachios and cashew shells also contain urushiol and can cause a similar reaction.

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