Why does celery make my tongue numb?

08 July 2007

Question

I have a question which needs some arbitrating. When I eat raw celery my tongue goes a bit numb, but by girlfriend doesn’t believe me. I’ve looked on the internet, but haven’t seen any definitive answers about what causes this phenomenon, or whether this even really exists.

Answer

This could be a manifestation of Oral Allergy Syndrome. If you suffer from hayfever, an allergy to pollen, you may find some of the same substances in the plant as you would find in the pollen. When you eat the plant, your mouth is exposed to the same things as you would in the pollen, and so you have a miniature allergic reaction in your mouth. The symptoms are pricklyness, swelling, itchyness, even an itchy sensation on the inside of your ears! The Numbness in your tounge would well be the celery prompting this oral allergy. Celery is in the same family as birch, so if you are allergic to birch pollen, you may well get this reaction to celery.

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