Allergic reactions to banana vary widely and can include itching of the mouth and throat, hives (uticaria), swelling (angioedema), and wheezing. In most cases, symptoms begin within minutes of eating the fruit.
Mild allergic reactions can be treated with an antihistamine. But on rare occasions there is potential for banana to cause anaphylaxis, which is the term for a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. If this is true in your case, your doctor is likely to prescribe a pre-loaded adrenaline injection device, which must be available at all times and used as soon as a serious reaction is suspected.
We advise that anyone who suspects that they or their child has banana allergy should see their GP and request a referral to an allergy clinic. Skin prick tests and blood tests may be performed as part of a diagnosis.
What else might I react to?
The proteins in banana are similar to those in some other fruits. If you are allergic to bananas, you may also react to avocado, kiwi or chestnut. A few people with banana allergy react to other fruits such as tomato, and also to vegetables such as bell pepper, olive, potato and custard apple. As plantain is from the same botanical family as some bananas, it is possible those with a banana allergy may react to plantain.
There is also the possibility that you could react to natural rubber latex. The reason for this is that latex is produced from the sap of the rubber tree, which contains similar proteins to those in bananas and other foods such as kiwi and avocado.
Pollen food syndrome
Although some people’s reactions to banana can be potentially serious, there is a form of allergy where symptoms are likely to be mild. The person affected suffers immediate allergic symptoms in the lips, mouth and throat, usually when they eat certain kinds of raw fruit or raw vegetables. This is known as pollen food syndrome (referred to in the past as oral allergy syndrome). Banana is one of the foods that can cause this problem.
Pollen food syndrome usually occurs in people who are already allergic to pollens and suffer from hayfever, although the symptoms due to hay fever can be mild.
Managing banana allergy
An allergy specialist is likely to be able to tell you whether your allergy to banana is likely to be severe or mild. For this reason, a referral is essential.
If you are allergic to bananas, you should avoid them completely. Be careful of fruit salads and fruit drinks and anywhere else where banana might be an unexpected ingredient.
If you are prescribed a medicine by your doctor, check that banana flavouring hasn’t been added. One research paper reports on an eight-year-old girl who suffered an allergic reaction within one hour of taking an oral dose of penicillin containing banana essence as a flavouring additive. Be careful, too, of care products such as shampoos and body lotions. Always read ingredient lists.
Our expert medical reviewer suggests that some people with banana allergy can tolerate cooked bananas because many of the proteins that cause a reaction are de-activated by heat and that this is most likely in those with pollen food syndrome. You should always consult your doctor or allergy specialist for advice about your individual case.
More information can be found on “Our Factsheets” webpage.
See the Adrenaline and Anaphylaxis the facts Factsheets in the Anaphylaxis: General advice and information section.
See the factsheet on pollen-food syndrome in the Food allergens factsheets section.
See the Latex allergy – the facts Factsheet in the Non-food allergens factsheets section.
Reviewer — Our text has been peer-reviewed by Prof John Warner, Professor of Paediatrics and Head of Department, Imperial College. He has no conflicts of interest to report.
All the information we produce is evidence based or follows expert opinion and is checked by our expert Clinical and research reviewers. If you wish to know the sources we used in producing any of our information products, please let us know, and we will gladly supply details.
Publication date: March 2015
Review date: March 2018