Symptoms, what to avoid and more

Eggplant is a plant in the nightshade family, also known as the nightshade family. Although botanically a fruit, eggplants are commonly eaten as a vegetable in savory dishes. They are used in many cuisines around the world and often touted for their versatility, especially as a meat replacement.

A very small number of people can develop an eggplant allergy. Although this allergy is very rare, it can lead to discomfort and even serious bodily reactions in severe cases. Some people are even allergic or intolerant to all members of the nightshade family.

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of an eggplant allergy, how to treat it, foods to avoid, and some suggested eggplant alternatives.

Photo Agnes Elisabeth Szucs/Getty Images


Symptoms

A allergic reaction to eggplant looks like allergic reactions to other foods. Common symptoms include:

  • Rashes
  • Itchy and swollen throat
  • Itchy and red eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting

In severe cases, food allergies can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Urticaria
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
  • Low blood pressure

Risk factors

In general, the main cause of allergies is genes. A person’s gender, race, and age can also affect the incidence and prevalence of allergies. Exposure to certain allergens, socioeconomic factors, comorbidities (concomitant conditions), climatic zone, and dietary habits can also influence allergies.

Your risk of eggplant allergy may increase if you have:

  • Allergies to other members of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers
  • Sensitivity to salicylate, a component of aspirin found in eggplant
  • A latex allergy, although rare (one report has been recorded of eggplant anaphylaxis in a single latex allergic patient)
  • Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS)a condition that is different from food allergies

OAS is characterized by an increased sensitivity to certain foods, mainly fruits and vegetables, after exposure to an allergen to which you are sensitive, such as trees, flowers or dust. OAS usually only has oral involvement (including the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat). Some cases of eggplant allergy have been reported to be associated with OAS, due to cross-reactions with pollen, latex, or even other vegetables, such as potato.

Diagnostic

Use a diary to track your diet and note when you experience symptoms. If you find that you experience sensations such as itching, rash or nausea immediately after eating eggplant dishes, an allergy may be to blame. Developing a rash a few days after eating eggplant does not indicate an eggplant food allergy.

If you suspect an eggplant allergy, see your healthcare provider for a referral to an allergy specialist, who may be able to perform tests to confirm the allergy. Common allergy tests include:

  • Skin test: During this test, your doctor will place a drop of the allergen on your skin and scrape it off. After several minutes, if there is a reaction such as redness, swelling, or itching, an allergy is likely.
  • Blood test: A blood test for allergies looks for an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE), which your body produces when exposed to an allergen.

Treatment of food allergies

The standard treatment for most food allergies is to avoid the allergen. This means that you should not eat eggplant or foods containing eggplant.

Your health care provider may prescribe certain medications for you to take in case you accidentally eat eggplant and have an allergic reaction. For a minor allergic reaction, a antihistaminesuch as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Claritin (loratadine) can be used.

During an allergic reaction, your body releases compounds called histamines that cause symptoms of itching, sneezing, and watery eyes. Antihistamines block the histamine receptor, minimizing these symptoms.

In the most serious cases, a EpiPen may be prescribed to prevent and treat anaphylaxis. EpiPens are injectable forms of epinephrine, used to stop the life-threatening whole body reaction that can occur. Knowing when and how to use an EpiPen is important because it can save lives when used correctly.

Always carry your EpiPen with you

If you are diagnosed with a food allergy, it is essential to always carry your EpiPen with you.

What to avoid

If you find out you have an eggplant allergy, the best thing to do is avoid eggplant. Eggplant is commonly used as a meat substitute, so be careful when ordering vegetarian or vegan dishes in restaurants. Tell your server that you have an eggplant allergy just to be on the safe side. Eggplant is used in cuisines around the world, so familiarize yourself with popular eggplant dishes. Some dishes that often contain eggplant include:

  • Baba ghanoush
  • Ratatouille
  • Eggplant Parmesan
  • Pasta a la Norma
  • caponata
  • Moussaka

Know Your Nightshade Foods

If you’re allergic to eggplant, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re allergic to other foods in the nightshade family, but it is a possibility. Here are some other nightshade foods you should know about:

  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Peppers
  • peppers
  • Goji berries
  • blueberries
  • Tomatillos
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chilli flakes
  • chili powder
  • Paprika

Food alternatives

Fortunately, avoiding eggplant is relatively easy once you know which dishes contain it. Other vegetables such as mushrooms, okra, root vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, and peppers can be used in place of eggplant in stews, stir-fries, and stir-fries, but if you are also allergic to nightshades, you can’t eat them either. Zucchini can be a great substitute for eggplant in dishes like eggplant parmesan or grilled salads.

Summary

Eggplant allergies are rare. All allergies can cause discomfort and even severe reactions. If you notice itching, swelling, rashes, or nausea immediately after eating eggplant, you may be allergic. If you experience symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, or swelling in your throat, seek medical attention immediately.

Eggplant allergies can be managed by familiarizing yourself with dishes containing eggplant and replacing eggplant with other foods, such as mushrooms and zucchini.

A word from Verywell

Food allergies can be frustrating to manage and can cause anxiety, especially when sharing meals or dining out. However, knowing more about your allergy and what foods to avoid can help you feel empowered and in control.

If you think you have a food allergy, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested so you can be confident when choosing foods to cook at home or eat out.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do eggplants make my mouth itch?

    If eggplant makes your mouth itch, you might be allergic to eggplant.

    Itchy mouth can occur as a symptom of OAS, which usually resolves on its own – no EpiPen required. VS symptoms can also be managed by eating canned foods or cooking them before eating them.

    Itchy mouth can also occur with systemic allergic reactions, which requires a different treatment plan: strictly avoid foods you’re allergic to, regardless of how they’re prepared, and always carry your EpiPen with you.

    If your mouth is itchy immediately after eating a food, talk to your health care provider and take an allergy test to confirm the cause of your symptoms.

  • Are eggplants high in histamine?

    Eggplants contain histamine, the chemical responsible for allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing and congestion. However, histamine in foods, including eggplant, varies and is generally not at levels that would cause a spontaneous allergic reaction in most individuals.

    Skin tests may be inaccurate when testing for histamine in eggplant.

  • What are the symptoms of nightshade food intolerance?

    Nightshade intolerance can produce symptoms such as bloating, gas, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea after eating foods from the nightshade family, such as eggplant, potato, tomato, and pepper.

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