Estimates suggest that celery allergy is one of the more common pollen-related food allergies among adults in central Europe. While the prevalence of celery allergy in the UK is unknown, it’s believed to be quite low compared with allergies to other foods such as egg, milk, fish and nuts.
The symptoms of celery allergy may come on rapidly, usually within minutes but can sometimes take up to two hours.
Symptoms of celery allergy may include some or all of the following:
• Nettle rash (otherwise known as hives or urticaria) anywhere on the body
• Swelling or itching in the face, mouth or throat
• Difficulty breathing
• Severe asthma
• Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
• Anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction affecting several parts of the body)
In some cases there’s a fall in blood pressure (anaphylactic shock), where the person becomes weak and floppy and may have a sense of something terrible happening. This can even lead to collapse and unconsciousness.
Celery is used in food in various forms including:
• Celery sticks
• Celery leaves
• Celery spice
• Celery seeds, which can be used to make celery salt
Getting a diagnosis of celery allergy
Because symptoms can be severe in some cases, it’s important to see your GP as soon as possible if you suspect you have celery allergy. Some GPs have a clear understanding of allergy, but it is a specialist subject so it’s more likely that your doctor will need to refer you to an allergy clinic. Anyone who has suffered anaphylaxis should certainly be referred.
The first line of defence is always to avoid foods that contain celery or celeriac. Keep in mind that it’s vital to read food labels carefully whenever you shop and that ingredients are sometimes changed. The good news though, is that all pre-packaged food sold within the EU, including the UK, must declare and highlight the presence of major allergens, including celery or celeriac, even if they appear in small quantities.
Tip: Make sure you always watch out for “may contain” warnings, which indicate the possibility of cross-contamination during the food production process.
A stick of celery or celeriac is easy to recognise but other forms of the food can be less easy to spot. For example, celery salt can be used in a variety of food including soups, sauces, stews, stocks, bouillons and seasonings and can also be used as a seasoning for tomato juice.
Other possible sources of celery include:
• Canned soups
• Stock cubes
• Pre-prepared sandwiches
• Spice mixes
• Batter for frozen foods