Can I Be Allergic To Tomato Plants but Not Tomatoes?

Can I Be Allergic To Tomato Plants but Not Tomatoes?

It turns out that people are allergic to the prevalent and easy-to-grow tomatoes. Fortunately, tomato allergies are rare, but sensitive people develop a rash from eating or contact with tomatoes. Nonetheless, the most common question is; can I be allergic to tomato plants but not tomatoes?

Some people are allergic to tomato leaves and grass pollen. These allergies are usually mild or severe, causing a lot of discomforts. Serious reactions include hives, sneezing, runny nose, wheezing, nausea, and vomiting. So, it’s essential to wear protective gear when handling tomato plants.

In most cases, getting an antihistamine cream over-the-counter seems like a solid solution. However, seeking medical attention is always advisable if more reactions kick in.

Keep reading this article to learn more.

Can I Be Allergic To Tomato Plants but Not Tomatoes?

You can be allergic to tomato plants if you touch the leaves or inhale the pollen. Itching and sneezing are usually the first symptoms you’ll develop. If mild, it’s easy to wash off the itch, and the sneeze goes away. Severe reactions, however, require a doctor’s attention.

Allergies can manifest in strange ways. Some people react by touching the tomato leaves but can eat any meal with tomatoes.

Regarding tomatoes, several parts of the plants show different defense mechanisms. Little prickly “hairs” on the leaves and stem prevent pests from feeding. Still, the leaves contain toxic compounds for some pets like cats.

These hairs can also cause an allergic reaction developing an itchy rash on sensitive skin. Nonetheless, the functions of these tomato plant hairs include;

  • Creating a layer to help reduce evapotranspiration around stems and leaves
  • Discourage contact with pests, insects, and even pets that feed or walk on them

The tomato pollen also causes an allergic reaction. It releases histamines that come into contact with any exposed part, like the skin, nose, and mouth. As a result, you develop sneezing, wheezing, runny and blocked nose, and even respiratory problems.

Is It Common To Be Allergic To Tomato Plants?

Generally, tomato plant allergies are infrequent. Sensitive people prone to tomato plant allergies are likely to react with other nightshades like potatoes, eggplant, and tobacco.

According to one study, true tomato allergies are sparse and present in about 1.5% of North Europe. Also, it’s common in Italy, affecting about 16% of the population. Besides, Italians love everything to do with tomatoes in their meals.

Additionally, you’ll find that most people that react to other types of nightshades are likely to react to tomato plants.

What are nightshades?

Nightshades are plants that contain some bits of alkaloids.

Typically, nightshades have infrequent allergic reactions. This is because they produce the glycoalkaloids compound, a natural pesticide that fights against pathogens. Better still, it activates immunity in people against allergies.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Tomato Allergy?

You most likely have a tomato allergy if you have a rash and stomach ache after eating or touching tomatoes. 

Let’s look at the different types and causes of tomato allergies below;

Type 1 Allergy

This is the true tomato allergy though very rare. It comes from an abnormal reaction of the immune system to an allergen-tomato. Thus, the reaction triggers allergic symptoms.

The type 1 or true tomato allergy is also called the contact allergy. It presents symptoms such as rashes, hives, hay fever, and in scarce situations, life-threatening anaphylaxis.

However, most reactions to tomatoes are more intolerant than true tomato allergy.

Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS)

OAS is also called the PFS (pollen fruit syndrome). It occurs from the cross-reacting tomato allergens that have profilins. These proteins are very similar and therefore cause an allergic response when they come in contact.

Because fruiting is seasonal, pollen allergies also develop seasonally. Therefore, the grass pollen in tomatoes causes an OAS reaction.

Usually, adults and teens are more likely to get OAS.  


Pseudo stands for false or pretended. In this case, pseudoallergy is not a true allergy. For instance, you may show similar signs of a true allergy, but it’s not the actual thing. Someone may get tomato acid irritation, but that doesn’t mean they have a tomato allergy.

Usually, pseudoallergy symptoms can be as severe as true tomato allergies.

Generally, all types of tomato allergies show first symptoms on the skin, eyes, sinuses, and airways.

However, specific symptoms of tomato allergy include;

  • Wheezing
  • Blocked, runny nose, and sneezing
  • Hives, rashes
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Swelling

OAS has milder and briefer symptoms than type 1 allergy. For instance;

  • Mild itching, soreness, or burning
  • Swollen lips, mouth, tongue
  • Brief nasal congestion, sneezing, or runny nose

These OAS symptoms only occur seasonally when the pollen count is high.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Only an allergist or a doctor can give a specific diagnosis of any tomato allergy. Most importantly, the allergist identifies the specific allergens you are reacting to. This way, it becomes easy to administer the correct treatment.

There are several ways an allergist can diagnose a tomato allergy, such as:

  • Blood tests to identify particular allergens
  • Skin-prick tests whereby they scratch the skin a bit to insert an allergen and observe the reactions
  • Oral tests involve gradual eating of specific foods while increasing the amounts to monitor the allergic reaction

Treating any tomato allergy starts from the ground; avoid tomatoes.

But in case of exposure, the affected person can use oral antihistamines to block the trigger of allergy symptoms.

When the allergy is severe, you are likely to take several allergy shots that desensitize you gradually from the allergen, whether grass pollen or food.

Still, there are cases of anaphylaxis with tomato allergy where you must always have an EpiPen to inject when there’s an emergency reaction.

Why Do Tomato Plants Make You Itch?

The itchy rash that develops from contact with tomato plants is called contact dermatitis. Usually, the reaction results from contact with the tomato plant hairs or pulp on the leaves and stems.

Even though the rash can’t spread from one person to the other, it causes so much discomfort. Also, it develops immediately within minutes up to 48 hours after exposure.

Contact dermatitis appears on any exposed part like the tomato plant’s legs, hands, or arms.

Though the signs and symptoms of contact dermatitis may vary, the common ones include;

  • An itchy rash
  • hyperpigmentation on dark skin
  • Dry and scaly white skin
  • Minor oozing and crusting bumps and blisters
  • Inflammation, burning, or soreness

If it’s mild, the symptoms will likely clear within two weeks. But because of the discomfort, it’s better to use soothing creams and other tips to ease the effects.

However, there are situations in that you should consult a doctor. When the rash spreads to other parts, doesn’t clear past three weeks, is extremely itchy, and the appearance worries you, rush to the doctor for treatment.

How to Prevent the Itch from Tomato Plants

Whether you’re planting the best tomatoes for hot humid weather or not, the itch from tomato plants may start mild. But it can develop into an infection if you scratch it repeatedly. From mild rashes, scratching the itch makes the affected part ooze and moist. Such a condition is prone to bacteria and fungi developing an infection. Luckily, it’s possible to prevent the itch using the following steps.

  • Keep off irritants and allergens. First, you need to establish the source of the itchy rash to help you avoid it. For tomatoes, avoid consuming fruit or any tomato product in the meal.
  • Wash your skin immediately with a lot of water. If you have sensitive skin, use a lot of water to wash your skin when you leave the tomato garden. Preferably, use a mild soap and warm water and rinse exhaustively.
  • Wear protective gear. Wear gloves, face masks, goggles, and long-sleeved overalls when handling tomato plants. These items protect you from pricky hairs, grass pollen, and sap from tomato foliage. Remember to clean the gear after use.
  • Apply a wet cloth over the affected part to cool the burning or itchy sensation that won’t disappear after washing.
  • Apply a soothing cream or gel. Aside from soothing the itch, these products also help cure it. Better still, apply a barrier cream before handling tomato plants. This way, the allergen doesn’t cause any reaction to the exposed hands, legs, or arms.
  • Use moisturizer. Applying a moisturizer after washing off the allergen from your skin helps to soothe the skin. Plus, it would help if you stuck to a regular application of moisturizer to help restore the skin after the rash and maintain it supple.  
  • Be cautious around pets. Plant allergens like grass pollen can cling to pet hairs and spread to people. If your pet follows you in the garden, bathe it to eliminate allergens. It would be best to keep the pets from tomato plants away as the foliage hairs can be toxic if ingested.

Final Word

So, can I be allergic to tomato plants but not tomatoes? As a common question for many tomato growers, the guide above certainly answers the question in detail.

Not only does the fruit cause allergic reactions, but also handling the plant can adversely affect your skin and respiratory system.

What’s essential is prevention rather than cure. Start by wearing protective gear every time you go into the garden. Still, don’t wait until the exposure is too severe to visit the doctor but keep an eye on the healing process.