What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Citrus?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 18 February 2020
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The signs of an allergic reaction to citrus run the gamut from symptoms that cause mild discomfort, such as itching, to potentially life-threatening reactions. Citrus allergies are rare, and most people who do have a citrus allergy exhibit only mild symptoms. Individuals who are seriously allergic to citrus may experience anaphylaxis, a very serious condition, which requires immediate medical attention. In some cases, individuals may not digest citric acid or other components of citrus fruit, but this is not a true allergy.

All allergies occur when the human body overreacts to a foreign substance. This overreaction causes the immune system to attack parts of the body itself. In most cases, this is far less serious than it sounds and involves only minor discomfort, such as the sneezing and watering eyes associated with hay fever. Food allergies are among the most common types of allergic reactions, although allergies to citrus fruits are not especially widespread.

Some indications of an allergic reaction to citrus, or to any other food, may be centered in the lips and mouth. Itching or tingling after citrus has been consumed is a common reaction, and is one of the typical signs of an allergic reaction to citrus. The face and throat may also react when citrus is consumed by someone who is allergic. The throat may feel tight or uncomfortable, and the face may itch or turn red.


Hives that appear after eating fruit may also be markers of an allergic reaction to citrus. These raised blotchy red and pink patches appear fairly suddenly. They typically itch ferociously and may appear anywhere on the body, not simply near the mouth. They may appear rapidly after eating or may take some time to manifest. A doctor should be consulted if hives appear, as they may be a symptom of anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis may occur as a result of a food allergy. This is an extremely serious type of allergic reaction, which can prove fatal if left untreated, and warrants immediate and urgent medical attention. In this type of reaction, an individual’s entire body is wracked with allergy symptoms. Shortness of breath, dizziness, and difficulty breathing are common, as is anxiety. Serious swelling of the face or the appearance of a blue tint in the skin may also occur.

A much less serious reaction to citrus fruit occurs in some individuals who cannot digest these foods. This type of reaction typically causes intestinal distress, but this distress is not a true allergic reaction to citrus, as the immune system is not involved. Avoiding citrus fruit is still advised for people who experience this sort of distress, but medicines that limit allergic reactions will not be of help.


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