What Are the Symptoms of a Mango Allergy?

Urushiol Is the Likely Culprit Behind Your Allergic Rash

Enjoying a mango—a tropical and savory orange-colored fruit—sounds wonderful, unless you are one of the few people who develops an allergic reaction to eating it.

While any food may cause an allergic reaction, mangoes are unique in that they belong to the plant family that also contains poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac.

Eating Mangos May Cause a Skin Rash

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. More specifically, the allergic response that most commonly occurs from mango consumption is a rash that occurs around the mouth called contact dermatitis.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis from eating a mango may include redness, itching, and flaking on the areas of skin that the mango touched. Blisters and irritation resembling a poison oak reaction can also form.

It's important to note that the skin rash from urushiol may not occur for up to two days following exposure, which is why it's called a delayed (type IV) hypersensitivity reaction. Although, the more a person is exposed to mango, the quicker the rash tends to pop up. 

Lastly, reactions to the skin of the mango, as opposed to the pulp, are the most common.

In fact, many people who develop contact dermatitis after eating mangos say they don’t have any symptoms if they cut up the mango and eat it without the fruit touching their skin, especially if they don’t eat the peel of the fruit.

In these cases, a person is probably not truly allergic to mango. Instead, a "true allergy," called an immediate type I hypersensitivity reaction, occurs within minutes of eating the trigger food and implies that a person has allergic antibodies to the food.

All in all, the delayed type IV hypersensitivity reaction is much more common with mangos than the immediate type I hypersensitivity reaction.

Diagnosing a Mango Allergy

Remember, only an allergist can determine if you are truly allergic to a food or not. If your doctor suspects allergic contact dermatitis, he can do patch testing to confirm the allergen.

In addition, there are other conditions that may mimic contact dermatitis, especially contact dermatitis of the face. For example, certain chemicals in commercial facial or cosmetic products (that make direct contact with your skin) are the most common causes of acute contact dermatitis. In other words, a reaction to a skin product is more likely than a reaction to eating a mango.

Treating a Mango Allergy 

Contact dermatitis around the mouth caused by a reaction to urushiol may respond well to low-dose topical steroids or Elidel (pimecrolimus) and Protopic (tacrolimus), which are two types of topical immunosuppressants used to treat skin rashes and eczema. If the rash persists, a doctor may consider treatment with prednisone (a steroid taken by mouth).

You may be surprised to learn that the allergic rash to mango will unlikely get better with antihistamines, although over the counter anti-itch creams may provide some relief.

Severe reactions, which are more common with other forms of urushiol-containing plants (as opposed to mangoes), may require emergency medical attention.  

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, dizziness, weakness, or swelling of the lips, tongue, eyes, or face.

A Word From Verywell

If you have any unusual symptoms with eating any food, check with your doctor before eating any more of the suspect food. In the case of a mango allergy, if diagnosed, you should avoid contact with mangos, as well as poison ivy, poison oak, and other members of the Anacardiaceae plant family.

It's worthy to note too that pistachios and cashew shells may contain urushiol and should be avoided.

Sources:

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (2014). Delayed Allergic Reaction After Eating Mangoes?

Fonacier L et al. Contact dermatitis: a practice parameter-update 2015. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2015 May-Jun;3(3 Suppl):S1-39.

Kim AS, Christiansen SC. Mango: pulp fiction? Contact dermatitis. 2015 Aug;73(2):123-4.

Sareen R, Shah A. Hypersensitivity manifestations to the fruit mango. Asia Pac Allergy. 2011 Apr;1(1):43-9.

Trehan I, Meuli GJ. Mango contact allergy. J Travel Med. 2010 Jul-Aug;17(4):284.

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