Ariana Grande’s Tomato Scare Shows Danger of Food Allergies

Ariana Grande
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A new food allergy can be surprisingly disruptive, as singer Ariana Grande discovered recently when a tomato allergy led her to push back two shows this week in Tampa and Orlando.

She shared the news on Instagram Wednesday, saying her throat “pretty much closed” due to the allergic reaction. It wasn’t just the tour delays that irked; she’ll also likely have to give up tomatoes, at one point her “food obsession.”


Many of us think of food allergies as a concern for children. While doctors have long believed food allergies are more common in children, new research casts doubt on this. The researchers found 11% of adults had a food allergy.

Some of them had food allergies as children that didn’t go away while about half developed new ones as adults, called an “adult-onset” allergy.

Because it can be so unexpected, an adult-onset food allergy can be all the more dangerous. It is hard to predict how serious the reaction might be. At worst, a food allergy can cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

It’s not clear if that’s what happened to Grande, though her breathing problems are among its symptoms. At least a day later — Grande initially postponed her shows on Tuesday before updating her fans Wednesday that allergies were to blame — the singer wrote that it “still feels like I'm swallowing a cactus.”

Her experience is a reminder of the seriousness of food allergies.

Am I Having an Allergic Reaction?

Even when the symptoms of an allergic reaction are obvious, the right response isn’t always clear. What starts as a relatively minor problem can quickly escalate. It’s important to be ready for these symptoms:

  • Skin changes, such as flushing, hives and swelling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Breathing problems like a stuffy nose, swelling of the throat or wheezing
  • Heart issues like unusual heart rhythms or lowered blood pressure

Someone who has an allergic reaction should seek emergency help immediately, even if their symptoms are minor at first.

The recent study found the following foods were most likely to trigger adult allergies:

  • Shellfish (7.2 million American adults)
  • Milk (4.7 million)
  • Peanuts (4.5 million)
  • Tree nuts (3 million)
  • Fin fish (2.2 million)
  • Eggs (2 million)
  • Wheat (2 million)

Because of the danger of being exposed to a food allergy, it’s smart to take extra precautions.

What’s an EpiPen?

Whether they have kids with a food allergy or have one themselves, many people carry an injectable medicine that can reverse anaphylaxis. The drug is called epinephrine, and many people know the delivery system by its brand name, EpiPen.

As they note, even people who get an injection of epinephrine should follow it up with a visit to the emergency department.

Food Allergies and Intolerances Are Different

An allergic reaction is not the same as having a food intolerance. A food allergy happens when your immune system mistakenly identifies food as a threat. A food intolerance doesn’t involve the immune system, and can have many causes, like stress and digestive disorders.

Someone with an intolerance can sometimes eat small amounts of a problem food without getting sick. However, even tiny amounts of a food you’re allergic to can cause a reaction.

Unfortunately for Grande, adults who develop new food allergies (instead of keeping the ones they developed as children) are less likely to grow out of them. That means she may never be able to eat tomatoes or products containing them ever again.

Her fans, though, just have to be a little patient. Grande’s Florida shows have been rescheduled for November.

Know If You’re Allergic — and If You’re Not

Avoiding a food for the rest of your life is a major hassle (and, in some cases, an expense). The recent study found that about one in 12 adults say they have a food allergy but really don’t.

So if you think you have a food allergy, get tested. It’ll leave you better prepared for the worst. Fostering the confidence that you get from taking action is one example of how we prioritize your whole-person health.

To find a doctor near you who offers allergy testing, visit our website. If you think that you’re having an allergic reaction, call 911 and ask to go to your local AdventHealth emergency room right away to prevent complications.

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