My Love Affair with Mangos

Mangos are a fruit, low in calories with excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, and a low glycemic index.  Not to mention their sweetness.  My husband says they taste as good as candy and I have to agree.  I have loved mangos for as long as I can remember.  They are my favorite fruit.  Years ago, however, I discovered that if I sliced the familiar checkerboard pattern and then brought it to my mouth to enjoy, the following day, I would break out in painful hives all around my lips – typical symptoms of mango allergy.  I was teaching at the time and this itchy rash was very embarrassing.

mango seed

Mango Allergy?  Say it isn’t so!!

I came to learn that though mangos are delicious and a favorite fruit to many, they are also a source of adverse and potentially harmful allergic reactions.  A mango allergy is a rare food allergy. Mangoes come from the same plant family as poison oak. A mango allergy develops from a substance called urushiol, which is found in the mango’s sap and can also be found in poison ivy.

The guilty chemical is urusiol, present in the rind of the mango. Urusiol is in the form of an oleoresin (a mixture of the oils in the mango skin mix with the alkyl based resin). The most common reactions range from numbness and swelling of the lips, to a mild irritation, to a bumpy itchy rash between the fingers and on the ear lobes. It can progress to the classical skin rash and itching that is seen in exposure to poison Oak and poison Ivy.

mango seedsDiscovering my mango allergy years ago, I changed the way I prepared mangos.  I was careful to wash to the skin and to slice the fruit off the skin before consumption.  I have also been careful to always use a fork and not to suck on the large seed.  For years, these precautions have been successful.  But no longer.

A few weeks ago, upon our return from Utah actually, we bought a flat of mangos at Costco.  I prepared them as per usual and enjoyed them in a variety of dishes as well as freshly cut.  A few days after we had eaten our last mango, I awoke to discover my eyes were swollen and I had a bumpy itchy rash between my fingers.  As this was a new reaction for me, I didn’t at first attribute it to the mango.

Delayed hypersensitivity?

Today, however, I awoke to a mildly swollen eye and my left hand itchy around my wedding band.  I had eaten a small serving of mango on Monday and can logically presume it must have been the mango.  Generally, an allergic reaction begins once a person comes in contact with the skin of a mango either by hand or mouth.  However, I have  now learned a version called delayed hypersensitivity can occur where the reaction appears 48 or 72 hours after exposure.

I’m bummed to discover I must now abstain from eating mango.  I would be willing to put up with a swollen eye and itchy fingers to taste this forbidden fruit.  However, the concern is that over time I would have increased sensitivity and the reaction could be more severe.  What is interesting to me, however, is I have never – in all my years of plodding through the forests of Oregon and California – had a reaction to poison Oak or poison Ivy.  I’ve even naively handled the leaves of poison Oak .. though I now know how to correctly identify both.

About Eva Varga

Eva is passionate about education. She has extensive experience in both formal and informal settings. She presently homeschools her two young children, teaches professional development courses through the Heritage Institute, and writes a middle level secular science curriculum called Science Logic. In addition to her work in education, she is an athlete, competing in Masters swimming events and marathons. In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling, learning new languages, and above all spending time with her family. ♥

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