Could Your Blood Pressure Medication Trigger a Deadly Allergy?

High blood pressure is a common health issue affecting millions of people worldwide. There are several medications available to control and treat it, but one drug classification, in particular, has been discovered to pose a dangerous threat to those with specific allergies. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are widely prescribed drugs for treating hypertension and congestive heart failure. However, if you have oral allergy syndrome, taking these medications might result in a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

Understanding Oral Allergy Syndrome

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS), sometimes referred to as “pollen-food syndrome”, occurs when someone with hay fever experiences allergic reactions to certain raw fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. This is due to cross-reacting allergens found in both pollen and raw produce. Signs of OAS include itchy mouth, scratchy throat, and mild facial swelling. Although the symptoms are usually mild and not life-threatening by themselves, mixing OAS with ACE inhibitors can lead to disastrous consequences.

Allergist and researcher Denisa Ferastraoaru, M.D., explains that when OAS sufferers’ allergies are primed and they come into contact with a specific allergen, the reaction can become much more severe. Symptoms of this severe reaction might include extreme facial swelling (angioedema) and difficulty breathing, and in some cases can even be fatal.

People who have hay fever but do not necessarily experience OAS after consuming raw produce and tree nuts might still be at risk. It’s essential to be aware of allergens commonly linked to OAS, such as:

  • Birch Pollen: apples, almonds, carrots, celery, cherries, hazelnuts, kiwis, peaches, pears, plums
  • Grass Pollen: celery, melons, oranges, peaches, tomatoes
  • Ragweed Pollen: bananas, cucumbers, melons, sunflower seeds, zucchini

How to Differentiate OAS from Food Allergies

Researchers highlight that OAS is not a food allergy and should not be mistaken as one. According to David Rosenstreich, M.D., a crucial difference between the two is that OAS sufferers can typically eat the triggering food when it’s cooked without experiencing any reaction. For instance, someone might be allergic to a raw apple but have no issue eating apples baked in a pie.

It’s essential to discuss any allergy-related issues with an allergist to determine whether you have OAS or food allergy. This can help avoid any potentially dangerous situations, especially if you’re being treated for hypertension or congestive heart failure with ACE inhibitors.

Dangers of ACE Inhibitors in OAS patients

The life-threatening reaction caused by the combination of ACE inhibitors with OAS can come from something as simple as biting into an apple. If you have OAS and experience a more severe reaction, such as angioedema or breathing difficulties, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention.

Anaphylaxis can be a lurking danger that needs to be avoided at all costs. Discuss your allergy history with your healthcare provider to determine if ACE inhibitors are the right choice for treating your high blood pressure or congestive heart failure. It’s important to consider alternative treatments if you’re at risk of anaphylaxis due to OAS.

Cautions and Safe Alternatives

If you’re diagnosed with OAS or are experiencing any symptoms mentioned above, it’s crucial to take certain precautions to ensure your safety. If you’re currently taking, or considering taking, any ACE inhibitors, inform your healthcare provider about your concerns. They can assess your risks and, if necessary, recommend alternative medications such as angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), which are less likely to cause severe allergic reactions.

High blood pressure can lead to various severe health conditions and even death if left unmanaged. Seeking professional medical advice when choosing a treatment for this condition is the best way to ensure you’re on the right path to improving your health while minimizing risks.