Kiwi fruit is a source of increasing allergic problems. The kiwi first became commercially available in the U.S. in 1970 and has led to a variety of allergic problems. The most common issue is oral allergy syndrome which consists of itching, burning and swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue and throat. Although not of life-threatening consequences, the symptoms are quite disturbing.
Much less frequent is anaphylactic allergy which is truly serious in nature. Of curious interest, most people with kiwi allergy are also allergic to birch pollen and in many cases to latex. Other allergens that commonly cross-react with kiwi are figs, avocado, banana, melon, hazelnut, rye, wheat and pollen from Timothy grass, mugwort and olive tree. Kiwi is native to southern China and is the Chinese national fruit. Seeds were introduced to New Zealand in 1940 and from there spread to Italy, Chile and the U.S.
Skin allergy is also seen from contact with the fruit or the vines, the main allergens in the kiwi are an enzyme called actinidin and a protein called kiwellin. The skin allergy is similar to poison ivy in that the rash appears one to three days after the contact.
Despite the mischief it can cause, kiwi has a lot of health value. It is a very rich source of antioxidant free radical scavengers, and thus, can reduce risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Kiwi extract has also been used in treating serious burns.