pair of eggplantsbowl of eggplants

How To React To An Eggplant Allergy

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By Johnny Bevers

Eggplant, or “aubergine” in British English, part of the nightshade family, is a glossy, purple fruit that grow on vines, much like tomatoes, and are prized for their meaty flavor and tender texture; unfortunately, some people are allergic to them.  Eggplant is a good source of fiber; vitamin B1, B6 and K; and copper.  It is eaten around the world and the majority of people enjoy this fruit with no adverse affects.  However, there is a small percentage of the world’s population that suffer allergic reactions after eating it.  If you suspect that you might be one of this small number of people, it is important that you learn a little about the eggplant, the symptoms of an eggplant allergy and how to deal with an allergic reaction should it occur.

Eggplant Season

Eggplants are in season from July and continue to be in season until early October; from the summer until early fall or autumn.  So if you are growing them, this is the peak harvest period and when they will taste best.  If you want to buy eggplant, however, as with most fruit and vegetables, you will find that they are available year round, but perhaps a little more expensive at certain times of the year.  Once you’ve picked or bought your eggplant, either use it immediately or store it in the crisper section of your fridge for up to three days.  Any longer than this and, whilst still edible, the fruit starts to become bitterer and less appetizing.

Eggplant Cultivation

The eggplant comes originally from the Indian sub-continent although it is now widely grown around the world.  Although eggplant can be grown in temperate climates, particularly with the help of a greenhouse or poly-tunnel, it does best in warmer tropical or sub-tropical climates.

Most egg plants on the market today are grown in one of five countries.  These five countries are: China, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and India. These countries possess the perfect climate for eggplant to thrive and have long been involved in the cultivation of the fruit.

Common Food That Contains Eggplant

Eggplant is found in a variety of recipes from around the globe and many people value its tender, meaty flesh.  It is especially popular with some vegetarians as its texture and general bulkiness provides a useful alternative to meat.  Because it can be a little bitter, eggplant is often soaked, by chefs and home cooks, in salt and water prior to cooking.  This tends to draw out the bitter flavor and soften the flesh.

Some of the food eggplant is commonly found in includes ratatouille, a French dish; moussaka, a Greek dish; lasagna and Eggplant Parmigiana, both Italian dishes of course; various curries from the sub-continent; and Imam Bayildi, a Turkish dish.  It is a truly international food!

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.  If you suffer from an allergy to eggplant then you may need to quiz the waiter or even chef at restaurants before diving into what looks like a delicious dish.  It may look great, and might even taste great for a few minutes, but if there’s any chance it contains eggplant then you shouldn’t really take the risk.

Please note that in Britain, the egg plant is referred to as an aubergine.  So, when traveling abroad, especially in the UK, be sure to look out for this word on menus.

Symptoms Of An Allergic Reaction To Eggplant

The symptoms of an eggplant allergy vary according to the severity of the allergy, but they are never pleasant.  The most common reaction to an eggplant allergy are itchy, uncomfortable throat, lips and mouth; not life-threatening but uncomfortable all the same.  This kind of allergic reaction is sending you a simple message: don’t any more of what you are eating! Listen carefully to your body; you would be very foolish to disregard this most obvious warning.

A more severe reaction results in a very dangerous a condition known as anaphylaxis, which is potentially life threatening.  Instead of a mere itchy sensation in the mouth, lips and throat, anaphylaxis causes a sever swelling in these same areas of the body.  This swelling can be so intense that it can result in a partial closure of the throat and by extension, difficulty breathing.  If the swelling becomes even more sever then this difficulty may be too much for the body to overcome and the ultimate price may be paid for eating the fruit.

In addition, some people with a severe allergy to eggplant, especially children, can come out in hives, or an uncomfortable skin rash, merely from coming into contact with eggplant, either through touching it or through eating it.

How To Respond To An Allergic Reaction

For a mild allergic reaction, that is, just an itchy mouth, face and throat, don’t panic; things aren’t that serious and there’s no need to rush to the hospital unless the symptoms become more serious and you experience any trouble breathing.  Instead, take an antihistamine medicine such as Allegra or Benadryl which are available over the counter in most countries including the US.  In most cases, this will clear up the problem and provide some relief from the symptoms within 20 minutes or so.  In addition, you may find that sipping warm water may make your throat, lips and mouth more comfortable.

For more severe cases, and indeed any case involving a child however seemingly slight the symptoms, you should go to the hospital immediately for professional treatment and advice.  As mentioned previously anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and should not be taken lightly.  Any trouble breathing should be seen as a sign of a possible anaphylaxis attack and the hospital is the best place to deal with this.  Try and stay calm (difficult I know) as you await treatment as any tension may exacerbate the symptoms.

Let me reiterate that young children showing any symptoms at all of any allergic reactions should be taken to the hospital immediately.

People Allergic To Eggplant May Also Be Allergic To Similar Foods

Eggplant is part of the nightshade family and if you believe or know that you have an allergy to eggplant you may also have, or develop, an allergy to other members of the nightshade family.

These other members include, but are not limited to:  tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and paprika.  You are most likely to experience allergic reactions to tomatoes if you have experienced them with eggplant.  Listen to your body when you are eating any food if you have a propensity to food allergies; it will be able to tell you far more than any literature as long as you are listening.

Knowledge is power, and if you suffer from an eggplant allergy, it is important that you use this power wisely by avoiding eggplant and perhaps its related family members; by being able to quickly recognize the symptoms of any allergic reaction; and by being able to take appropriate action should you or someone else experience an allergic reaction.  You may also find it appropriate to carry an over-the-counter, or even prescription, medicine with you at all times if you suffer from strong allergic reactions to eggplant; to other member of the nightshade family; or indeed any other food stuff at all.

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