What may just be the world’s first documented case of a child being severely allergic to oranges has also highlighted an often overlooked but nonetheless important link between allergies and asthma. When a Pennsylvania child was air-lifted to the hospital after snacking on the fruit, it didn’t take long for doctors to realize her strange allergy was actually triggered by her undiagnosed asthma.

Although the 2-year-old girl had previously enjoyed drinking orange juice, in one particular incidence a simple orange snack caused a life-threatening allergic reaction. "She ate an orange and within a few minutes had developed severe anaphylaxis," said Dr. Sigrid DaVeiga, an allergist and author of the study on the girl’s case, in the press release. "Her lips and tongue swelled, she broke out in hives, and couldn't breathe well. Her parents immediately got her to an emergency room, and she was flown by helicopter to a pediatric intensive care unit."

Thankfully, the fast action of the medical crew saved the young child’s life, and after a 48-hour hospital stay she was allowed to return home with her family. An assessment with an allergist revealed that initial suspicion was correct: She was, in fact, allergic to oranges, as well as peaches.

While allergies to oranges are extremely rare, further investigation suggested the roots of the child’s bizarre reaction. She was found to have undiagnosed asthma. According to the press release, around 90 percent of children with asthma also have allergies. Unfortunately, when this asthma is left undiagnosed or is poorly controlled, children become at risk for suffering difficult-to-treat allergic reactions to food.

Allergies and asthma differ in that allergies are actually your body’s way of protecting you from what is perceived as a danger but is actually harmless. Common allergies are pet dander and pollen. Asthma, on the other hand, is the result of the airways becoming inflamed and therefore more sensitive to everyday triggers. In some individuals, allergies lead to an asthmatic attack, in a condition appropriately named allergic asthma. However, in this particular case of the young girl, the opposite happened and the actual asthma triggered the allergy.

While allergies to oranges are extremely rare, and this was the first case of such an extreme orange allergy, there are others with this peculiar allergy. The most common reactions to oranges and other citrus allergies are runny noses and sore, watery eyes.

The study will be presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, held Nov. 6-10 at the Georgia World Congress Convention Center in Atlanta.