What is celery allergy?

Celery allergy is a type of food allergy. Food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system wrongly identifies a food as a threat. When this happens, the body releases chemicals, such as histamine, in response. It is the release of these chemicals that causes symptoms.

Celery is used in food in various forms, including:

  • celery sticks
  • celery leaves
  • celery spice/salt
  • celery seeds – which can be used to make celery spice/salt
  • celery root (also known as celeriac).


If you have a celery allergy you may react to any part of the celery plant. The most common cause of allergic reactions to celery in the UK is a condition known as pollen food syndrome.

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What is pollen food syndrome?

Pollen food syndrome can cause allergic reactions when you eat certain fruits or vegetables. This is because the proteins in pollen are similar to the proteins in the fruits and vegetables. It usually occurs in people with hay fever who are allergic to pollens.


What are the symptoms of pollen food syndrome?

Symptoms are usually mild and may respond to antihistamines but speak to your doctor to make sure this is the right treatment for you.

Symptoms of pollen food syndrome usually include:

  • redness, mild swelling or itching of the lips, tongue, inside of the mouth, and ears
  • itching and mild swelling of the throat
  • occasionally, people might also have symptoms in the oesophagus (food pipe) or stomach, causing stomach pain, nausea and vomiting
  • sneezing, runny nose, or symptoms affecting the eyes.


Rarely, more serious symptoms can occur, known as anaphylaxis (anna-fill-axis).

Serious symptoms are unusual because the proteins that cause the pollen food syndrome are unstable and are destroyed with heat or once they reach the stomach.

Most people with pollen food syndrome have allergic reactions if they eat the raw fruit or vegetables, but they are able to eat the cooked fruit or vegetables without any problem.

However, if you have an allergy to celery that’s not because of cross reaction with pollen, you may have a reaction to celery even when it is cooked.

More serious symptoms

The term for this more serious reaction is anaphylaxis.

Most healthcare professionals consider an allergic reaction to be anaphylaxis when it involves difficulty breathing or affects the heart rhythm or blood pressure. Any one or more of the ABC symptoms above may be present.

In extreme cases there could be a dramatic fall in blood pressure. The person may become weak and floppy and may have a sense of something terrible happening. Any of the ABC symptoms may lead to collapse and loss of consciousness and, on rare occasions, can be fatal.

More serious symptoms are often referred to as the ABC symptoms and can include:
  • right_arrow_orange_icon AIRWAY - swelling in the throat, tongue or upper airways (tightening of the throat, hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing).
  • right_arrow_orange_icon BREATHING - sudden onset wheezing, breathing difficulty, noisy breathing.
  • right_arrow_orange_icon CIRCULATION - dizziness, feeling faint, sudden sleepiness, tiredness, confusion, pale clammy skin, loss of consciousness.

Getting a diagnosis

If you think you may be allergic to celery, see your GP who can refer you to a specialist allergy clinic if needed. They can find a clinic in your area from the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI).

It’s important to get a referral even if your symptoms were mild because it can be hard to tell if future allergic reactions could be more serious.

Once you get a referral, the consultant will discuss your medical history and symptoms with you. They might suggest skin prick tests, blood tests, and food challenge tests to help diagnose the allergy and work out how serious it may be.

What can mean you're at higher risk?

Some clues that you might be at higher risk of more serious reactions are:

  • you have already had a serious reaction, with any of the ABC symptoms
  • you have asthma, especially if it is not well controlled
  • you have reacted to cooked celery
  • you have reacted to a tiny amount of celery.


If you have asthma and it is not well controlled, this could make an allergic reaction worse. Make sure you discuss this with your GP or allergy specialist and take any prescribed medicines.

Treating symptoms

If you have mild allergic symptoms you may be prescribed antihistamine medicine that you take by mouth. If you are at higher risk of anaphylaxis, you may be prescribed adrenaline to use in an emergency.

Adrenaline comes in pre-loaded adrenaline auto-injectors (AAIs) that are designed to be easy to use. Make sure you know how and when to use them. Ask your healthcare professional to show you how to use your specific brand of AAI. You can also find help and training videos on the manufacturer’s website and get a free trainer device to practise with.

You must carry two AAIs with you at all times, as you may need to use a second one if your symptoms don’t improve after five minutes or get worse.

Adrenaline auto-injectors

The adrenaline auto-injectors prescribed in the UK are:

Avoiding celery

Once you have been diagnosed with a celery allergy, you will need to avoid it and foods that contain it.

Read the ingredient lists on food packets carefully every time you shop. Celery is included in the list of top 14 major food allergens in the UK. This means it must be highlighted on ingredients labels, in bold for example.

Read the ingredient list every time you buy a product as manufacturers change their recipes often.


When eating out

Restaurants, cafes, hotels, takeaways and other catering businesses are required by law to provide information on major allergens, including celery. Ask staff directly if the food you’d like to buy contains celery and if there is a risk of cross-contamination and let them know that even small quantities can cause an allergic reaction. Don’t be afraid to ask staff to check with the chef.

Foods that can contain celery

A stick of celery or a celeriac root is easy to recognise, but other forms of celery are less easy to spot. For example, celery salt or juice can be used as ingredients in various foods.
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Soups
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Sauces
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Stocks, bouillons and seasonings
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Stews
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Salads
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Tomato juice
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Sandwiches
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Crisps
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Spice mixes
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Marmite
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Batter for frozen foods
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Some cured bacon

Key Messages

  • If you think you have a food allergy, visit your GP.
  • If you are prescribed adrenaline auto-injectors, carry two with you at all times.
  • Know how to use your adrenaline auto-injectors and what to do in an emergency.
  • Read food labels carefully and question staff in restaurants, takeaways and anywhere you eat out of home.
  • If you have asthma, make sure it’s well-managed.

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