Celery Allergy – everything you need to know to stay safe. Includes a list of celery allergy symptoms, celery substitutes, and what you need to avoid in foods to not have a reaction.
Celery allergies are more rare in the United States and United Kingdom, but seem to be more common in other parts of Europe, especially France, Germany, and Switzerland. The reasoning for this is yet unknown.
However, an allergy can develop at anytime to anyone.
This article walks you through all aspects of a celery allergy, symptoms, what to avoid, what you can still enjoy, and how best to manage your celery allergy.
What is a celery allergy?
A celery allergy is when an allergic reaction occurs anytime after ingesting or being exposed to celery in any of its forms. Celery is found in the following:
- Celery sticks
- Celery leaves
- Celery Seeds
- Celery Spice
- Celery Salt
Additionally, it is important to avoid celeriac, a cousin of the celery plant. They contain very similar allergens and often times people have a reaction to both.
An allergy occurs when the body is exposed to the celery plant in any form and develops a strong IgE antibody response. This is the body’s own antibodies working to protect the body from something it sees as a threat, in this case the celery. The body responds by triggering the immune system that has the different symptoms (see below) that can range from mild to life-threatening.
Symptoms of a celery allergy
Most children and adults will develop an allergic reaction either immediately, after a few minutes, or as long as a few hours after being exposed to celery. Remember, some people can be so allergic that even touching or smelling the food can cause a reaction.
A list of possible reactions to celery include:
- Swelling, itching, or irritation of the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat
- Asthma attacks
- Eczema on the skin
- Hives, itching rash on the skin
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Cramping and/or pain of the stomach or bowels
- Anaphylactic reaction
Anaphylactic celery allergy
For some people, a life threatening reaction known as an anaphylactic (anna-phil-act-tick) reaction may occur after consuming, touching, or smelling celery or celery by-products. If this happens, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Signs and symptoms of this include:
- Swelling or tightening of the throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pains or tightness
- Trouble swallowing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Change of the normal coloring of the skin in the mucous membranes (inner lips, gums, around the eyes, and nail beds)
- For light skin, check for sign of dark blue tints in the mucous membranes
- For medium skin, check for signs of a gray-green tint in the mucous membranes
- For dark skin, check for signs of a gray or white tint in the mucous membranes
How common are celery allergies
As said above, European people seem to have a more prevalence of celery allergies. In Switzerland, about 40% of those with food allergies have at least a sensitivity to celery. In France, up to 30% of severe reactions (anaphylactic) were thought to have been brought on by a celery allergy.
In the rest of the world, celery allergies appear to be more rare. But, they can happen anywhere to anyone so if you suspect you or someone you know as a celery allergy, it is possible.
How to manage celery allergies
The best way to manage your celery allergy is to avoid any and all forms of celery or celery related products.
If at some point you want to test and see if you still have a celery allergy, consult your doctor and ask about doing a challenge test to gauge your reaction under the supervision of your doctor.
Cross-Reactions for Celery Allergies
People who are allergic to celery also can be have an allergy attack caused by a food that isn’t related to celery at all. That is because the body thinks that the proteins to the allergen are so similar, that the body has a reaction as if you had ingested celery. This is called cross-reactivity.
Many who are allergic to celery also have allergies to Birch Pollen or Mugwort Pollen. The term “birch-mugwort-celery-syndrome” has been created just for this purpose.
This list does not mean that if you have a celery allergy you have to avoid these foods. This is a list of foods that could possibly cause a reaction. If you are allergic to celery and do not have a reaction, there is no need for you to remove these items from your diet. However, if you do react, the celery allergy could be the underlying reason why.
People allergic to celery are often allergic to other members of the botanical family of celery, mainly to:
- Apiaceae fruits and vegetables
- Bell peppers
Being your own allergy advocate
If you are certain something is wrong, don’t give up! My primary care physician at the time was unconvinced I had developed new allergies in my late 20s. He assumed I was eating too much fast food and told me to take an antacid medication.
However, I was adamant in knowing that something was wrong and found a new allergy specialist. After testing, we discovered I had an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder! After a change of medication and diet, my health improved in weeks.
Be your own advocate at the doctor’s office and make sure you take someone with you to help navigate the medical industry if you need.
How to diagnosis a celery allergy
The best way to diagnose a food allergy is to visit your local allergist doctor. While there, they may perform one of the following tests to determine your allergies:
Skin testing – Placing a small sample of the suspected allergen in a purified form into the top layer of skin with a poke.
Blood testing – Drawing a small sample of blood to be sent to a lab where they will check the blood’s reactivity to various suspected allergens.
Food elimination – This is the gold standard for diagnosing an allergen. The suspected food is removed in all forms from the diet for a predetermined length of time (usually 2 to 3 weeks) and then reintroduced. If a reaction occurs, it is likely to be an allergy. Please note that it is only safe to do food challenge testing under the supervision of a doctor. Never knowingly eat a food you know you are allergic to.
What you can eat with a celery allergy
Since developing allergies, I have always found myself cooking at home more than going out ot eat with friends. My diet has shifted to include simple whole foods; things like meats, vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, and safe grains.
There are so many options of what to enjoy in place of celery in foods! Here are some suggestions:
- Water Chestnuts
For the full list on celery substitutes read this!
What to avoid with celery allergies
Here is the list of what to avoid with a celery allergy. I’ve included all the ones I’ve discovered but there may be ones I have missed, or new ones that have discovered to be a cross reaction. If you know of one that I have missed, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the list!
Things to avoid:
- Celery sticks
- Celery root
- Celery leaves
- Celery seeds
Dining out with celery allergies
Perhaps the biggest change to your life after developing allergies comes from knowing what is safe to eat when dining out. Grabbing a quick bite anywhere you like may not be possible!
The best way to avoid (or at least try to avoid) getting sick at restaurants is to research ahead of time. Most restaurants post their menus online, which gives me a change to figure out if this restaurant would be a safe option. Even if the menu says it is safe, I will still research because it is really difficult to ensure that a kitchen is aware of not only to not use foods with the allergen, but also about cross contamination on surfaces, open new ingredients bags, or even use a different set of gloves or kitchen knives when preparing food.
Hidden sources of celery
While a stick of celery is easy to recognize, it is more difficult to see the hidden sources of celery in other foods and non-food sources. Celery and celery salt are often used in broths and soup bases. It can also be used as a seasoning for tomato and other vegetable juice. Here is a list of foods to use extreme caution around before consuming:
- Skin Care Products
- Canned soups
- Soups/Stews in restaurants
- Stock / Broth
- Store bought sandwiches
- French fries (celery salt)
- Spice mixes
- Batter in frozen foods (chicken nuggets are often a source of celery salt)
- Cured Bacon (celery juice is often used to cure)