Is tongue tingling a safe guide to allergencity?

From the US Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network –

My friend told me that he can tell whether there is peanut in a food just by tasting it. If his tongue doesn’t tingle he eats the food. Is this safe?

The simple answer to this question is NO! Why? Well ...

It is true that an itching or tingling of the tongue or throat is often the first sign of an allergic reaction. It is a very specific symptom of a reaction and I encourage patients to be on the lookout for it as it often does provide the first warning that a problem food has been eaten. However...

• The reaction in the mouth does not always happen – even if it has happened to you before – and is by no means foolproof. This is especially the case if it is a low level of exposure, where you might need to finish the whole meal or dessert before the
reaction catches up with you.

• If the food has been ‘cross-contaminated’ it will not always be evenly spread throughout the food. Therefore, the first bites may not contain any contaminant. So you could eat most of a cookie without reacting and then, wham, eat the contaminated portion in the last few bites.

• If you are on antihistamines for other allergy problems, then the reaction in the mouth will usually not occur, or, if it does, may only happen after eating a large dose of the allergen.

The question posed here is not unusual. Unfortunately I know how often the ‘taste test’ fails, because I have seen many severe reactions in patients who had come to rely on it – including at least one fatal reaction.

Dr Robert Woods, Director of Pediatric Allergy Clinics at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore and a member of FAAN’s medical advisory board.

Courtesy of FAAN -

First published in 2009

If you found this article interesting, you will find many more articles on anaphylaxis here, and reports of research into anaphylaxis here.
You can also find articles on peanut and tree-nut allergy here, cow's milk allergies here, egg allergy here, histamine intolerance hereand articles on a wide range of other allergic and intolerance reactions to a wide range of other foods here.

Back to top