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How to Peel Mangos if You're Allergic

Updated on June 24, 2016
Mangos and Poison Ivy
Mangos and Poison Ivy | Source

I was blissfully mid-bight on a mango last year when someone cheerfully announced that mangos were related to poison ivy. I couldn't have dropped the mango faster! Outside and nowhere near a source of running water, I frantically poured my water bottle's contents over my hands and tried wiping my mouth and lips off on my sleeve. I wasn't entirely sure this other person was correct, but I am highly allergic to poison ivy and thought if there was even a chance I'd better play it safe! I spent the rest of my day panicking, envisioning contact dermatitis on my lips and maybe even inside my mouth. What about the inside of my throat? How much mango had I eaten?

I rushed home as quickly as I could and flung myself at the Internet, wondering if I should just go straight to the Doctor's Care, instead. This hub contains the information I learned about mangos, how to safely eat mangos if you suspect an allergy, and what to do if you've come into contact with a mango tree.

Are Mangos Related to Poison Ivy?

Are you allergic to poison ivy?

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Weirdly, yes. I don't know what cruel joke of nature made a tasty fruit and a life-ruining vine related, but both mango trees and poison ivy leaves contain a chemical called urushiol (pronounced ooh-roo-she-all). Urushiol is what causes people with a developed sensitivity to have what is oficially called contact dermatitis, also known as a painful skin irritation/rash. You aren't born allergic to urushiol - it is a developed sensitivity. Some people, particularly those of Native American descent, never develop this sensitivity. Once you have it, though, it will probably just get worse each time you are exposed. The first time I got poison ivy, it was barely a rash. The next time I got poison ivy, it turned into a horrible mess that made one of my eyes literally swell shut and resulted in a quick trip to the doctor for antihistamines and steroids! Other, subsequent exposures have resulted in weeping sores and even bleeding, and lasted over a month. Yikes!

If you've developed a urushiol sensitivity, you can have contact dermatitis from your first contact with a mango. As fun as it may sound, scratch mango picking off your next Floridian or Hawaiian vacation to-do list if you even suspect you might be allergic to poison ivy or sumac. While most cases of urushiol sensitivity only result in skin irritation, it can actually lead to anaphylaxis.

Can I Eat Mangos if I'm Allergic to Poison Ivy?

Picking a mango is a great way to get urushiol-containing sap on your skin.
Picking a mango is a great way to get urushiol-containing sap on your skin. | Source
The peel is colorful and pretty-looking, but don't eat it!
The peel is colorful and pretty-looking, but don't eat it! | Source

Yes! Urushiol is an oil that is contained in the tree's sap and, in smaller concentrations, a mango's outer rind/peel. If you are sensitive to urushiol, you are more likely to have a reaction from picking the fruit than you are from touching the mango, itself, but highly sensitive people have been known to break out just from standing under a tree! Even little bits of leaking sap can cause dermatitis in people with a severe poison ivy allergy.

The edible portion of the fruit does not contain urushiol. Even if you are highly reactive to urushiol, you can eat peeled mango with no ill effects. Most people don't eat mango rind, anyway, so this isn't usually a problem. The bigger problem is peeling the fruit without putting yourself at risk for contact dermatitis.

Because most other allergy-inducing plants are not native to the islands, the biggest cause of contact dermatitis in Hawaii is contact with a mango tree. What a way to ruin your vacation! Keep an eye out for mango trees if you're on vacation somewhere that grows them and make sure not to use one of them for shade if you suspect an allergy.

How to Prepare a Mango if You're Allergic

Hedgehog mango
Hedgehog mango | Source

The most popular way to cut and prepare a mango is the "hedgehog" method. If you're allergic to urushiol, this may not be a good idea. Ideally, you should have someone who is decidedly not allergic peel the mango for you, but that isn't always possible.

I got these for my birthday last year and they are amazing! They make peeling anything effortless and are surprisingly good at cutting thin slices of small vegetables, like carrots.

If you suspect an allergy or have a history of poison ivy-iduced contact dermatitis, cover your hands when handling a mango. Pick it up with the produce bags at the store instead of putting it in the bag with your bare hands. When you get home, handle it with gloves or, more realistically, the bag.

Hold the mango in place with your covered hand and peel it with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife. A mango's skin is more like a rind than a peel, so it is pretty tough. Unless your knife is really sharp, it may not work well. I use my amazing Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peeler for all peeling jobs and its super sharp carbon steel blade has always handled a mango's rind with ease.

Protected hand and Swiss peeler.
Protected hand and Swiss peeler. | Source

After you're removed all of the rind, scrape the peelings in the trash, ditch the cutting board in the sink, give the mango a rinse, put it on a clean cutting board, and scrub your hands with hot water and soap just in case! Because urushiol is an oil, cold water won't cut it, and there's no reason to risk contaminating your fruit by putting it back on the same cutting board. Evidence suggests that urushiol can remain active for 5 years on dead plant or items that came into direct contact with it!

You're not so scary now, mango!
You're not so scary now, mango! | Source

Now you're free to cut up your mango and enjoy it by itself, in a fruit salad, as mango salsa, or any other way your heart desires. Eat confidently knowing you protected yourself from urushiol and that it is not in the fleshy fruit portion of the mango.

Mango, pineapple, strawberries, and blackberries in a tasty fruit salad.
Mango, pineapple, strawberries, and blackberries in a tasty fruit salad. | Source

Help! I Touched a Mango and I'm Allergic to Poison Ivy!

If you've just been out picking mangos and wonder why your hands feel funny, it is not too late! There is an amazing product called Tecnu that really does work to neutralize urushiol. Regular Tecnu is best used within a couple of hours and can be used to clean tools and clothing, too. Tecnu Extreme is better if you already have symptoms. It will neutralize any remaining urushiol to ensure you don't spread the oil to other parts of your body and soothes the terrible itching, oozing pain. I keep a bottle of Tecnu in my locker at work because I trust it. I straight up grabbed on to a poison ivy vine while pulling weeds out of a rosebush, used Tecnu immediately, and I never broke out. For someone who needs steroids to calm down a urushiol reaction, that is pretty amazing!

The Mango/Poison Ivy Connection

You'd think maybe someone along the line would have warned me of the mango's connection to poison ivy, but I only found out by accident. Luckily, my proactive approach has kept me from breaking out due to contact with mangos, but I'm pretty paranoid about standing near a mango tree!

Has anyone reading this ever broken out from eating or touching a mango? Anyone even realize that the two plants are related?


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good information, Natasha! I've never eaten a mango and never run into poison I'll take your word for all of this. :) Hopefully I'll never find out.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      You've never eaten a mango or brushed up against poison ivy? Wow! I think I'd trade mangos for having never experienced poison ivy. I actually had scars on my shins from it for a long time - I'm just lucky none of it scared on my face.

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 3 years ago from Arlington, TX

      I'm allergic to poison ivy but mangoes don't bother me in the least. I make a mean fruit salad too :) Nice read.

      The Frog

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      There's not as much oil in the peel, which is probably why you've never had an issue. Be careful, though, because the reaction builds with exposure!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I had no idea and peeled and ate a mango. My mouth and tongue swelled up and i thought it was the mango!

      Thanks for telling me! Now i will be able to eat mango again.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Isn't it crazy how the rind has a poisonous oil and the fleshy fruit doesn't? I'm so glad you found out it isn't the fruit you're allergic to!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      This was fascinating. I wasn't aware of its connection to poison ivy until you opened my eyes to urushiol! Thanks for showing this to me! Sharing!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you for sharing! As common as a reaction to urushiol is, I don't know why mango's urushiol content isn't more widely warned and known!

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 3 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Thanks Natashalh for letting this know. Mango season has started here and everyone is on the run to pick or buy one. I would follow these instructions as to escape from poison ivy!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Some people are not allergic so if you have no reason to believe you might be, don't stress. If you've ever broken out from either, though, be careful!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      Luckily poison ivy does not do much to me at all and since I love mango I'm glad. Will tell my brother though because he gets horrible reactions to it.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      I'd be so happy if I didn't react to poison ivy! About 9 months of the year I have to stare at the ground wherever I walk to make sure I don't accidentally brush up against some!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I do love mangos and glad that my allergy to poison ivy does not affect my enjoyment. I just love that lost photo of fruit, so tempting. There are some people in this area that are allergic to mangos, and it is surprising to hear of how many! Enjoyed your post.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Yep, it's just hanging out there, waiting!

      It amazes me how so many people in mango-growing parts of the world have mango trees they can't keep up with and people elsewhere struggle to find them. But, hey, I guess folks further north do the same with apples or grapes, though my state's biggest fruit crop is peaches and everyone tries their darnedest to eat every peach in sight!

      Thanks for stopping in and I'm glad you're not allergic.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

      I have mango trees in my farm, my family even makes money selling mango. Thanks for this informative article.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Really? I had no idea mangos grew in your part of the world! Cool!

    • Jeni 3 years ago

      Thanks a bunch for the peeling tips. I found out the hard way about urushiol in mangos. Just had to go to the Dr.'s today to get steroids and cream for my lips and face. They swelled up and were covered in blisters, and it started spreading to my tongue and roof of my mouth. I have always eaten frozen with no problems but just started eating fresh last week. That's when this all started. I wish I would have known cause this rash is so painful and uncomfortable. Hopefully I can still enjoy fresh mangos cause I love them.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Oh no!!! That's terrible! I've had steroids because of an urushiol reaction before, too. If I were you, I'd get disposable gloves and wear them when peeling the mango and make sure to wash everything down really well with hot, soapy water when you're through. I'm really sorry that happened but tanks for stopping by! I hope you feel better son.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

      Oh my God! I did not know about this mango poison ivy connection. I sometimes have contact dermatitis and I´m always careful now. Thanks for this information Natasha. Well done. Voted up and shared;-)

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Isn't it shocking? I really didn't believe the person who told me the first time I heard this. I love mangos, but I treat them with excessive care to make sure I don't get a reaction! Thanks so much for stopping by and I appreciate the share.

    • Will Powell 3 years ago

      Oh my gosh!!! I am very allergic to poison ivy and I ate a mango a few days ago and I got a rash on my lips. I didn't even think they could be related so I got more mangoes because they taste soo good! I've eaten four more since the first one!!! I'm probably going to die!


    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Eek! It's just the peel, though, so don't panic too badly! Most people don't eat the peel, anyway, because it really isn't that edible. As long as you didn't eat the peels, you *shouldn't* have trouble except for your lips and maybe mouth. Mangos are tasty, for sure, and the fruit's flesh does not contain urushiol.

    • Elijah 3 years ago

      THANKS SO MUCH! This helped very much, had NO idea that mango was close to poison ivy until I got a rash all over my face. I was so sad thinking I couldn't eat my favorite fruit anymore then I saw this! :)

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Yahooo! I'm glad you discovered it's just the peel, not the whole fruit. I love mangos, too, but am so allergic to poison ivy.

    • Waphldoo 2 years ago

      I have pretty severe reactions to poison ivy, but I have also never had even a slight reaction to mango sap, so maybe the concentration is significantly lower, or it's a slightly different form of the compound? I have picked mangoes, grown mango trees, climbed mango trees, never had a reaction. But despite protective gloves/clothing and scrubbing myself down thoroughly with soap right afterward, I got a nasty rash up my arm after I pulled up a poison ivy vine I found growing in my yard.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 2 years ago from Hawaii

      That's interesting and you're lucky! There is a difference in concentration, yes. There's a product called Tecnu that removes poison ivy residue when used immediately. I have such a violent reaction to poison ivy that I have to visit the doctor for steroids, but Tecnu can keep me from breaking out.

    • brenda 2 years ago

      I have massively bad reactions to poison ivy. When we were kids in Oklahoma we were in the back of a pickup truck and drove through some smoke. They were burning poison ivy. I looked like revenge of the mummy for weeks. When I was 25 or so a friend offered me a mango. I peeled it and we ate it. Within a few hours I was itching and breaking out. I went to the DR and he asked me where I fell in the poison ivy at and I told him I hadn't been in the woods but the only new thing was mango. He spent time in south america with peace corp and said it was the mango and gave me steroid cream and pills. totally sucked.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 2 years ago from Hawaii

      Oh my goodness, I can't imagine how awful it would be to breathe poison ivy smoke! That sounds terrible. Sorry about your mango experience. =( They're so tasty, but I have to be super careful when handling them!

    • Luvfit 2 years ago

      I got mango mouth :( had no idea until after the rash and it sucks!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 2 years ago from Hawaii

      Oh, noooo!! I'm sorry. =(

    • the rawspirit profile image

      Robert Morgan 18 months ago from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Scottsdale AZ

      Wow... I had no idea. I love Mango's and I am very allergic to poison ivy.I was recently pealing several; mango's for a chutney when I broke out with hives. Now I know why. Thanks.

    • Mary Milner 6 months ago

      Yeah, I am 9 months pregnant. I got the bright idea to buy a mango and eat it. After I cut it up and ate it, half my face from my nose down to my neck broke out pretty bad, as well as my hand and wrist and arm from the contact. That was a week ago. I'm still suffering, and due to pregnancy steroids are not an option. Fun days.

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