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?

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Tim 

        8 days ago

        I have had severe systemic reactions from eating both mangos and cashews. I have avoided both for nearly two decades.

      • profile image

        Parent 

        13 days ago

        My daughter is highly sensitive to poison ivy. We found out about mangos totally by mistake. Since she’s stopped eating them... well I won’t say it. Don’t want to jinx anything

      • peachpurple profile image

        peachy 

        5 weeks ago from Home Sweet Home

        Most mangoes sold here are ok, no poison ivy

      • profile image

        Joe 

        7 months ago

        I am highly allergic to poison ivy and poison oak. All I have to do is walk past poison ivy and I have it to the point that I need steroids to get over it. One day i ate a mango and I could feel my eyes getting ready to swell up. I immediately took Benadryl to prevent an allergic reaction. I am so lucky that I recognized the sensation warning me that facial swelling was coming. i, too, seem to remember getting poison ivy from head to foot after being exposed to smoke from poison ivy burning. I had it every year growing up.

      • profile image

        Doug Klotz 

        7 months ago

        The Poison Oak/Ivy-Mango connection is REAL.

        Real bad in my case.

        I had eaten mangos my entire life as a kid since my mom was from Costa Rica, and that's what Costa Rican mom's kids eat. One day after feasting on a whole mango with my hands around the age of 14, I broke out in an awful facial-skin allergic reaction. At the time I had no idea what caused it since I didn't do anything differently that I ever had.

        Or so I thought.

        As it turns out, about a year earlier I had a severe allergic reaction to exposure with poison oak while camping. First and last time for me to be exposed to poison oak since it resulted in painful and itchy skin rash over most of my body! Not fun.

        I discovered the poison oak-mango connection in my early 20's in a bit of an "ah-ha" moment, but it has taken 3 decades to piece together why I was never allergic to mango until AFTER my severe reaction to poison oak.

        1. The poison oak reaction initiated my severe allergy to urushiol as normal contact levels in mango were not potent enough to cause it

        2. Once allergic, my body went after any exposure to urushiol with a vengence

        3. Possible connection with one's body having changed out ever single cell after a 7 year period causing or stopping allergies? (7 x 2=14)

        I have considered myself allergic to mango ever since and depressingly have not so much as tasted mango in over 30 years. Because of this post, I feel encouraged that I may be able to eat mango again!

        Thank you!

      • profile image

        Ally 

        10 months ago

        Yep, I'm finishing up my scabs on my lips, cheek and neck now. I had no idea mangos were so harmful to me and ended up getting pumped full of steroids at the hospital because my throat started swelling on the outside so bad that I couldn't swallow and could barely breath. Very scary!

      • profile image

        Melissa 

        11 months ago

        I've never come in contact with poison ivy and never ate much mango until I moved to Asia a few years ago where the mangoes are plentiful and delicious! Didn't take me long to notice the rash and numbness on and around my mouth that lasted for days. Thankfully a friend who is a local knew the peel was the culprit, not the fruit. So I made an agreement with my roommate that I would buy the mangoes and she would peel them! Win win!

      • profile image

        Pomfuz 

        11 months ago

        I have a terrible allergy to poison ivy; blistering, weeping sores. However, right now I am suffering from a severe case of hives (day 3) from Mango skin. Until I read your article I didn't know that they were related. Luckily I have technical in the cupboard fingers crossed I'll be able to see out of my red puffy eye. Thanks for the info!

      • profile image

        Beth Urban 

        11 months ago

        I'm allergic to poison Ivy and I had a reaction to mango peels years ago after eating mangos every day for a week. Just yesterday I thought I'd be fine peeling one for my kids. Boy was I wrong

      • profile image

        Lacy 

        13 months ago

        I am allergic to urushiol also but I can't ingest mangoes at all but haven't had a problem handling them (weird) and also be careful because I developed an allergy to cashews and pistachios too, apparently they all contain the oil fyi.

      • profile image

        Ashlie 

        13 months ago

        I was literally just eating one, skin and all, and for some odd reason decided to google, "is mango peel edible" much to my shock I read it contacts the same chemical found in poison Ivy, I'm very allergic to poison Ivy, I threw the rest in the trash, but now Im wondering if I should go to the ER. I don't want my throat to close up.

      • profile image

        Rachel 

        13 months ago

        I first had a reaction to mango back in November 2016. I was freaking out because I thought it was cold sores, although all the info I found online stated that cold sores were painful and what I had was definitely on the (extremely) itchy side! I had to wait to get to proper healthcare, and by that time my reaction was so severe, having not treated it with anything. I could actually see my lips protruding from my own face!!!

        The doctor I ended up seeing just gave me an antiviral (that somehow seemed to work?) And swelling and scabs were finally all gone after about a month.

        I went in for another check up with my PCP and I showed her pictures of my reaction and she SO CONFIDENTLY said impetigo. It somewhat matched my reaction, but I was sure to note that I had eaten a mango also around that time, and she went off saying how it is common knowledge to peel the mango and not let it touch your skin.

        Fast forward to Jan 2017, I wanted to see if I was allergic to mango. Ate it. Nothing. Woohoo!!

        Fast forward again, to May 23, thoroughly enjoying a delicious mango HEDGEHOG STYLE w/ Tajín YUMMM. I feel tingling in my lips, chalk it up to the spice of the Tajín. Next day at work, I'm getting little red bumps on the corner of my mouth. They are super tingly and rapidly spreading around the vermilion border. Next day, super red rash, weeping sores starting everyehere; I had to wear a mask all day at work so patients wouldn't be grossed/freaked out.

        Was able to get to the doctor yesterday and they prescribed Prednisone and hydroxyzine and they have helped tremendously! Took two awful instances but I now know that mango peels don't like me and I HATE them!!!

      • profile image

        Sean Rubino 

        14 months ago

        I had two terrible allergic reactions to urushiol before realizing what was causing it. I am extremely allergic to poison ivy and get weeping sores when ever i come in contact with it. When I started at college I began buying groceries on my own and decided to eat mangos out of the skin. My lips nose and chin broke out in the same weeping sores.

        Anti-histamines seemed to keep it from getting worse.

      • profile image

        Fallon 

        15 months ago

        Yes, I have broken out 3 times from eating mangoes on my mouth. I love mangoes; it doesn't happen every time but I'll definitely take the advice in the article to avoid another breakout. I'm experiencing a breakout now :( so I'll order some Tecnu. I'm also highly allergic to poison oak. I'm traumatized.

      • profile image

        Bob Dunham 

        16 months ago

        Does not work if your highly allergic but Green berets and Airborne rangers drink poison ivy tea to slowly build resistance to it.

      • profile image

        Mary Milner 

        2 years 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.

      • the rawspirit profile image

        Robert Morgan 

        3 years 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.

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        3 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • profile image

        Luvfit 

        3 years ago

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

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        4 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!

      • profile image

        brenda 

        4 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        4 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.

      • profile image

        Waphldoo 

        4 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        4 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.

      • profile image

        Elijah 

        4 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        4 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.

      • profile image

        Will Powell 

        4 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!

        #thissucks

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        4 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.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        4 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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.

      • profile image

        Jeni 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 years ago from Hawaii

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

      • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

        Vinaya Ghimire 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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.

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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!

      • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

        Claudia Mitchell 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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!

      • radhikasree profile image

        Radhika Sreekanth 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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!

      • midget38 profile image

        Michelle Liew 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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!

      • Austinstar profile image

        Lela 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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!

      • The Frog Prince profile image

        The Frog Prince 

        5 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 imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        5 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.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        5 years ago from Olympia, WA

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

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