What Are the Symptoms of a Tomato Allergy?

A. Pasbjerg
A. Pasbjerg
Yellow tomatoes.
Yellow tomatoes.

Though it is relatively rare, some people are allergic to tomatoes and can experience a number of unpleasant symptoms when they eat them, particularly if they are raw. Symptoms usually arise initially in and around the mouth, with the lips, tongue, and throat first becoming itchy and then often swelling. Some people may also develop hives or an itchy rash on other areas of the skin. Gastrointestinal symptoms are also common, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. A more severe, systemic reaction can cause difficulty breathing, fainting, and even anaphylactic shock or death.

A caprese salad, which includes tomatoes.
A caprese salad, which includes tomatoes.

The first place that symptoms of a tomato allergy often show up is the area first exposed: the mouth. Often the allergic person will start feeling itchy on and around his or her lips, on the tongue, and even in the throat shortly after eating. This is frequently followed by swelling in the same areas. Swelling in the throat can be particularly problematic, as it may make breathing difficult.

A tomato allergy can also cause a reaction on skin elsewhere on the body. Some people develop itchy hives that can arise on some or all of their skin. They may also get a rash, which can be persistent if they do not take tomatoes out of their diet.

Hives can appear as an allergic reaction.
Hives can appear as an allergic reaction.

During an allergy attack, the body may try to rid itself of the allergen with a gastrointestinal reaction. The allergic person may feel nauseous and start to vomit to get the tomato out. He or she may also have diarrhea as part of the body's response.

In some cases, an allergy to tomatoes can be severe and lead to serious symptoms. It is also quite common for the allergic reaction to start out fairly mild and get progressively worse with each subsequent episode. Those who do have a severe tomato allergy may wheeze and have difficulty catching their breath. This can lead to a loss of blood pressure, which can make the person dizzy and faint. If he or she does not get medical attention quickly, the reaction may eventually result in anaphylactic shock, heart or respiratory failure, and even death.

Allergies may manifest as skin rashes.
Allergies may manifest as skin rashes.

People with tomato allergies may also want to use caution when ingesting plants from the same family. Two closely related foods that commonly cause symptoms in those with a tomato allergy are potatoes and eggplant. Tobacco is also closely related to the tomato, so smoking can also sometimes lead to an allergic reaction.

Other Foods To Avoid With a Tomato Allergy 

Many foods can contain traces of tomatoes or other plants from the nightshade family. So if you have a severe tomato allergy, you should be cautious with the following products: 

  • BBQ sauce 
  • Tabasco sauce 
  • Chili powder 
  • Canned soup 
  • Curry powder 
  • Taco seasoning 

Raw vs. Cooked Tomatoes 

Some people with tomato allergies can safely eat tomatoes after cooking them. This is because high temperatures break down the proteins that cause allergic reactions.

So if you’ve recently discovered you have a tomato allergy, good news: there’s a chance you can still eat a lot of common foods such as pizza, pasta with tomato sauce, or chili.

However, cooking tomatoes does not always make them safe for people with tomato allergies. Depending on the severity of your allergy, high temperatures may not be enough to break down all of the allergy-triggering proteins.

If you have a severe tomato allergy, eating tomatoes in any state can pose a serious risk to your health. Always seek advice from a medical professional before eating tomatoes, cooked or raw, if you have a tomato allergy.

Can a Tomato Allergy Appear Later in Life?

While most people believe allergies begin during childhood, this is not always the case. New allergies can suddenly appear at any time in your life.

That’s why it’s important to know the signs of food allergies—even mild allergic reactions can have serious health risks.

Unfortunately, there have not been many studies on adult-onset food allergies. Hormone changes or genetics are a few possible reasons for this phenomenon, but the exact cause is still unclear.

How To Know You Have a Tomato Allergy

If you have experienced any allergy-related symptoms after eating tomatoes, there is a pretty good chance you have a tomato allergy. But if you’re unsure, you could take an allergy test to find out.

An allergy test involves a medical professional exposing you to the allergen in a controlled environment. If your body reacts, you will receive immediate treatment as well as confirmation of your tomato allergy.

Some professionals may also use a blood test to determine food allergies. Once they draw your blood, they can check for specific antibodies that can help determine the source of your allergy symptoms.

Tomato Allergy or Tomato Intolerance? 

If you experience digestive issues after eating tomatoes, the cause may be an intolerance rather than an allergy. Many people use “allergy” and “intolerance” interchangeably, but there is a difference.

Itching of the face, mouth, neck and throat are common symptoms of a tomato allergy.
Itching of the face, mouth, neck and throat are common symptoms of a tomato allergy.

Tomato allergies affect the immune system and can often have life-threatening effects. If you have a tomato allergy, you will experience symptoms such as rashes or an itchy mouth. In severe cases, it can cause a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylactic shock.

An intolerance, on the other hand, simply means your body has trouble digesting a certain food. A tomato intolerance will cause some discomfort, but it is rarely life-threatening.

Symptoms of tomato intolerance include: 

  • Nausea 
  • Bloating 
  • Stomach cramps 
  • Diarrhea 

If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms after eating tomatoes, consider eliminating them from your diet to see if your condition improves.

What To Do When Experiencing an Allergic Reaction to Tomatoes 

If you are experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction, you should act quickly. Allergic reactions can be life-threatening if you don’t receive the necessary treatment.

Here is a step-by-step guide for how to handle an allergic reaction to tomatoes: 

  • Stop eating the tomatoes and wash any tomato juice off of your skin. 
  • Determine how severe the allergic reaction is. If the symptoms are sudden or cause difficulty breathing, you should go to the emergency room immediately.
  • If the allergic reaction is very mild, you can take an antihistamine drug to help reduce the symptoms of your reaction. You should monitor your symptoms even if your allergic reaction is mild. If your condition worsens at any point, contact a medical professional.
  • In the future, avoid eating tomatoes and let others know about your tomato allergy to prevent any accidental exposures.

Depending on the severity of your tomato allergy, you may want to talk to your doctor and consider getting an epinephrine auto-injector. This is a life-saving medication that can reduce airway swelling during anaphylactic shock.

Discussion Comments

anon1005064

You can be either allergic (a tiny amount causes a disproportionate immune system response) or intolerant (the reaction is directly proportional to the amount eaten) to tomatoes. Apparently, there are two substances in tomatoes that can cause these reactions. One is a group of proteins called profilins, which are also found in grass pollen. If you are exposed to grass pollen a lot, the related profilins in tomatoes can also trigger an allergic reaction. Profilins can be broken down by cooking tomatoes. BUT--and I learned this through several years of trial and error--tomatoes also contain a lot of something else that can trigger hives, sore throat, etc.

What do tomato, pineapple, avocado, Chinese food, Chik-Fil-A sandwiches, lots of canned soups, many, many brands of sausages, and parmesan cheese have in common? Glutamate, glutamic acid, nad monosodium glutamate. And tomato paste and tomato sauce, as well as pineapple juice, contain even higher concentrations. And lots of foods contain monosodium glutamate, either naturally, or added. That only took 6 years of trial and error to nail down.

But if you have reactions to tomatoes, then you probably have reactions to any glutamates, and that won't show up on an allergy test. Because an intolerance depends on the amount of exposure, whereas an allergy will react to even a tiny amount. And the amount of MSG in a can of Campbell's Vegetable Beef Soup probably isn't enough on its own to trigger a noticeable reaction. But, if I have, say, Chinese food for lunch, then spaghetti and meatballs with grated parmesan and a pina colada for supper, that's a noticeable reaction. Took 6 years to figure this out. But I'm "cured."

ysmina

@jackson-- I agree with you, this is more common than people realize. I'm allergic too. When I touch tomato juice, I get a rash on my skin. I don't eat them at all.

literally45

@alisha-- I'm allergic only to raw tomatoes. If I have any, my lips and face swells up and I get itching inside my mouth. It's very bad.

I don't have an allergy to cooked tomatoes though. I can have cooked pasta sauce for example without problems. I think most people are allergic to the acids/enzymes in fresh tomatoes. When it's cooked, the enzymes become ineffective.

You might want to try cooked tomatoes to see if you're allergic. But have only a little bit and watch out for dangerous allergy signs like throat swelling and difficulty breathing. You have to go to the emergency room if that happens.

discographer

I think I have a tomato allergy. I've been getting gastrointestinal problems after eating raw tomatoes in salads. I get stomach cramps, flatulence and diarrhea.

It's weird because I've been eating tomatoes my whole life without problems and I'm sure that it's the tomatoes triggering these symptoms. I don't know if I'm allergic to cooked tomatoes but I'm a little scared to try right now.

Does anyone else here have a tomato allergy? Are you allergic to all tomatoes or just raw ones?

jackson26

Tomato allergy is quite common. Many people have the problem of tomato allergy. The most common symptoms are skin reactions such as itching, redness of the skin and vomiting.

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