What Causes an Itchy Mouth? Your Symptoms Explained

An itchy mouth is also known as oral allergy syndrome and is often associated with a mouth tingling sensation, along with an itchy throat and tongue. An itchy roof of mouth is commonly caused by eating certain foods that contain pollen that may cause an allergic reaction. Read below for a list of foods that can cause an itchy mouth and treatment options.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 2 Possible Itchy Mouth Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. FAQs
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics
  8. Related Articles
  9. References

Itchy Mouth Symptoms Explained

Even though being "itchy" is a symptom of many ailments, you probably never expected to find your mouth feeling that way. However, an itchy mouth is not uncommon in cases of allergy or irritation and is one of the body's ways of letting you know that you may be eating something harmful [1,2]. "Itchy mouth" is formally known as oral allergy syndrome, OAS, or pollen-food syndrome [1].

Common characteristics of an itchy mouth

If you're experiencing an itchy mouth, it will likely present with [1,3]:

  • Widespread sensations: A strange, itchy, tingling sensation inside the mouth, also involving the lips, tongue, throat, and roof of the mouth.
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
  • Itchy ear canals
  • An unusual taste in the mouth

Duration of symptoms

Symptoms usually do not last for more than about five to 20 minutes [4].

  • If you have a food allergy: The symptoms will stop if you simply take the food out of your mouth [2].
  • If you eat the food you're allergic to: The symptoms disappear once your stomach has digested it, and the troublesome proteins have been broken down [5].

Who is most often affected?

Young children are rarely affected. Oral allergy syndrome usually first shows up in older children, teenagers, or young adults, even though they may have been eating the foods in question for years with no problem. These allergies may get progressively worse as you get older [6].

When is itchy mouth most likely to occur?

Symptoms usually begin quickly, within minutes of eating the problematic food. In rarer cases, hours may go by before symptoms occur.

Is itchy mouth serious?

The severity of your itchy mouth depends on the cause and other associated symptoms.

  • Less serious: Mild reactions usually do not progress beyond the head and might include runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and dry cough.
  • Moderately serious: With stronger reactions, there may also be reddened, swollen, itchy patches called hives showing up anywhere on the skin. You might also experience upset stomach with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Serious: A reaction that seems mild at first, but rapidly intensifies, can quickly become a life-threatening medical emergency.

What Causes Itching in Lips, Tongue, Roof of Mouth, and Throat?

An itchy mouth means that you are not just allergic to the fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, seeds, or even spices that you're eating. It means you are actually allergic to the pollen of some wild trees and plants — usually birch trees, grasses, and ragweed [1].

The food in question has similar proteins to the pollen, so your immune system reacts to the food the same way it reacts to the pollen: by producing an itchy mouth and throat, along with other allergy symptoms. Very ripe fruits and vegetables may provoke a stronger reaction than those that are less ripe [1,7].

Triggers of an itchy mouth related to allergies

The following are more likely to trigger symptoms of an itchy mouth, in addition to eating an offending food.

  • Being outside where there is pollen that you're allergic to, and then eating one of the foods that cause your symptoms: This can cause a severe and sudden reaction.
  • Exercising: This can make the allergic effect happen almost immediately upon eating the offensive food [2].
  • Drinking alcohol: This can also intensify the symptoms [8].

Foods related to a birch tree pollen allergy

If you are allergic to birch tree pollen (the most common allergen that causes an itchy mouth), you may experience symptoms if you eat:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Cherries
  • Kiwifruit
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Hazelnuts
  • Almonds

Foods related to a grass pollen allergy

If you are allergic to grass pollen, you may experience symptoms if you eat:

  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery

Foods related to a ragweed pollen allergy

If you are allergic to ragweed pollen, you may experience symptoms if you eat:

  • Melons
  • Bananas
  • Cucumbers

2 Possible Itchy Mouth Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced itchy mouth. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition most commonly caused by an allergic reaction. In anaphylaxis, two types of immune cells — mast cells and basophils — are suddenly activated and release numerous inflammatory substances that cause blood vessels to dilate and become leaky, which can lead to low ...

Read more

Itchy Mouth Symptom Checker

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Allergic reaction (not life-threatening)

When the body encounters a harmful substance, it responds with inflammation and swelling that can be protective. In many individuals, the body responds this way to substances that are not normally harmful, like foods or pollen. This is the basis of allergy, or Type 1 Hypersensitivity.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: swollen face, swollen lips, lip numbness, hives, red swollen bumps or patches with a pale center, lip redness

Symptoms that never occur with allergic reaction (not life-threatening): shortness of breath, throat itching

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Treatment for Itchy Roof of Mouth, Lips, Tongue, and Throat

When it is an emergency

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if you have any sign of the severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis:

  • Trouble swallowing: And feeling as though your throat is closing up [4,6]
  • Chest pain and weakened pulse
  • Trouble breathing along with feeling faint, or even passing out

When to see a doctor

See a physician if you experience the following.

  • A first-time reaction, even if it seems mild: This is because it may be the first sign of sensitization to the food in question and may become much more severe the next time you eat the same food.
  • Ongoing mild reactions: These can interfere with the quality of life and possibly become severe later on.

At-home treatments

For mild or occasional itchy mouth symptoms, you can try the following remedies at home.

  • Avoiding the foods that seem to cause the reaction
  • Peeling fresh fruit: This is sometimes helpful in avoiding symptoms.
  • Cooking the offending fruits and vegetables: This will usually alter the proteins found in them so that they no longer trigger the allergy. Most of the time, you can still enjoy things like vegetable soup, applesauce, and fruit pie [1].

FAQs About Itchy Mouth

Here are some frequently asked questions about an itchy mouth.

Can allergies cause an itchy mouth?

Oral allergy syndrome or pollen-food allergy syndrome can cause mild swelling or itching of the mouth and throat after eating raw fruits, nuts, or vegetables. The symptoms result from a contact rash on the throat. If you begin to have an itchy mouth, you should consider visiting an emergency department. An itchy mouth is often the first sign of an allergic reaction in which an individual loses his or her ability to normally breath as their windpipe closes.

What does persistent itchy mouth mean?

A persistent itchy mouth may be a sign of oral allergy syndrome or allergy flares. Food often triggers it, but it can also be due to pollen. If you have asthma or severe food allergies, you may need to carry a dose of epinephrine (an EpiPen) to treat emergent allergic reactions. If your itchy mouth persists, you should speak with your primary care provider.

What foods can lead to an itchy mouth?

Many foods can lead to an itchy mouth. Fruits and tree nuts like apples, peaches, apricots, cherries, plums, pears, and almonds, as well as vegetables like carrots, celery, coriander, and nuts like soybeans and peanut butter, can cause itchy mouths. However, almost any food can cause an allergic reaction.

Can a sinus infection cause an itchy mouth?

Usually, a sinus infection does not cause an itchy mouth. A wound in the mouth that is healing causes an itching sensation while it heals. A sinus infection can cause pain or pressure on the sinuses of the face, congestion, and even drainage of pus from the nose. If you suspect a sinus infection, see a medical professional for diagnosis [9].

Do yeast infections cause an itchy mouth?

Yeast infections may cause an itchy mouth. Yeast infections are common in small children who have not yet fully developed their immune systems. For adults, a candida infection within the mouth can be a sign of a much more serious infection that causes the immune system to stop functioning. In this case, you should seek medical attention [10].

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Itchy Mouth

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Do you have a rash?
  • Where specifically is your mouth pain?
  • Do you suspect that you are sick because of something you ate?
  • Do food or drinks get stuck when you swallow?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Please take a quiz to find out what might be causing your itchy mouth. These questions are also covered.

Itchy Mouth Quiz

Itchy Mouth Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced itchy mouth have also experienced:

  • 6% Frequent Sneezing
  • 5% Tickle In Throat
  • 5% Congestion

People who have experienced itchy mouth were most often matched with:

  • 63% Anaphylaxis
  • 36% Allergic Reaction (Not Life-Threatening)

People who have experienced itchy mouth had symptoms persist for:

  • 40% Less than a day
  • 28% Less than a week
  • 15% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Itchy Mouth Symptom Checker

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References

  1. Oral Allergy Syndrome. Columbia University Medical Center: Columbia Doctors. Columbia Doctors Link
  2. Summertime, and the Livin' is Sneezy. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published Feb. 26, 2015. Allergist Link
  3. Food Allergy Symptoms. Allergy Smart. Allergy Smart Link
  4. Food Allergy. Seattle Children's Hospital Research Foundation. Revised March 31, 2018. Seattle Children's Link
  5. Food Allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Allergist Link
  6. Anaphylaxis. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Reviewed Jan. 1, 2018. Allergist Link
  7. Moreno lvarez A, Vila Sexto L, Bardina L, Grishina G, Sampson HA. Kiwifruit Allergy in Children: Characterization of Main Allergens and Patterns of Recognition. Spergel JM, ed. Children. 2015;2(4):424-438. Published Oct. 19, 2015. Children (Basel) Link
  8. Alcohol allergy. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Published 2015. Allergy Link
  9. Bishop S, Guarderas J. Pay Close Attention to Symptoms to Determine if Cause is Sinus Infection or Allergies. Mayo Clinic. Published April 12, 2013. Mayo Clinic Link
  10. Candida infections of the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed Aug. 4, 2017. CDC Link