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101 Nuts allergy

101 Nuts allergy

We better know what nuts allergy is even though we don't suffer from it. It has very several symptoms that - hopefully won't happen, but - we have to recognize when somebody is having such allergic attack so we can help as much as we can.

(Tree) Nuts Allergy 101

Along with peanuts and shellfish, tree nuts are one of the most common food allergens that may cause anaphylatic shock in severe cases. Tree nuts allergy is likely to be a lifelong condition; less than 10 percent of people grow it out as they age. In recent decades, the percent of people who have nuts allergy increased significantly, especially among children. It cannot be treated, the only safe solution is to avoid allergens. Peanut allergy is not the same as nuts allergy, but one who has any of them is likely to be allergic to the others' allergen. In case of diagnosed peanut allergy, it's safest to avoid all kinds of nuts.

Tree nut allergy is a typical food allergy, the body identifies the protein of these nuts as invaders and gives an abnormal immune response. Listing the questioned nuts are not easy if you try to think of the types of nuts; but if you think with the question of the protein mentioned, it’s easy. Peanuts are not technically nuts, but a legume, but contains the same protein as a wide variations of nuts, from walnuts to lychees.

Technically nuts are:

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Filberts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Hickory nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Shea nuts (often used in cosmetics)
  • Walnuts

Symptoms of nut allergy

Peanuts are legumes, like peas, lentils and chickpeas (and also other diverse plants like wattles and the black bean tree of Queensland), and the proteins in peanut are very different to those found in tree nuts (such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnut, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios or walnuts). Therefore, someone allergic to peanuts is not automatically going to be allergic to tree nuts, but in certain cases, the allergy comes from both peanuts and tree nuts. About 25-40 percent of people are allergic to both.

The symptoms of nut allergy range from a minor irritation to the life threatening anaphylaxis, and the allergic reaction can be caused by even a tiny amount of nuts. If somebody has this allergy, it’s essential to inform his or her close friends about it.

If a kid has minor reactions, it's possible that they will be more serious in the future, so if you only have just a little idea about nuts allergy, it’s better to see a specialist to diagnose it, and prevent serious cases. This is the same advice if you think you have nut allergy.

As with many food allergies or intolerance, you can have either nut allergy OR nut intolerance. The difference is that intolerance doesn’t involve an immune reaction, but a digestive system problem have the same symptoms as that with other food intolerances.

Peanut allergy signs and symptoms can include:

  • Skin reactions, such as hives, redness, or swelling
  • Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
  • Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting
  • Tightening of the throat
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Runny nose

Anaphylaxis signs and symptoms can include all of the above, plus:

  • Constriction of airways
  • Swelling of your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
  • A severe drop in blood pressure (shock)
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or loss of consciousness

Taking antihistamines may help prevent skin reaction or sneezing, but it’s not enough for preventing anaphylaxis. Every case of anaphylaxis needs immediate treatment, called epinephrine, which is prevented by having an adrenalin shot that you can carry with you all the time, which you can inject yourself with, then right after that, you need to call emergency. If you diagnosed with a nut allergy, the doctor will prescribe you this epinephrine auto injector. Epinephrine is just for serious conditions, you have to know the typical symptoms, and have to decide if you only have a minor reaction and have enough time to see an emergency room, or it’s better to inject it first.

Note that nuts allergy especially peanut allergy doesn’t only occur by having direct contact with peanuts. It can occur after an indirect contact as well.

  • Direct contact: eating peanuts or peanut-containing foods, or sometimes direct skin contact with peanuts can also trigger an allergic reaction
  • Cross-contact: unintended introduction of peanuts into a product (It's generally the result of a food being exposed to peanuts during processing or handling.)
  • Inhalation: if you inhale dust or aerosols containing peanuts, such as that of peanut flour or peanut oil cooking spray. There are few cases when people do react to airborne particles, and it's usually in an enclosed area (like a restaurant or bar) where lots of peanuts are being cracked from their shells.

How to diagnose nut allergy?

When seeing a doctor about a nut allergy, the things to put in mind are:

  • Description of your symptoms. (Such as what exactly happened after you ate peanuts, how long it took for a reaction to occur, and what amount of peanuts or food containing peanuts caused your reaction)
  • Physical examination. (To identify or exclude other medical problems.)
  • Food diary. (Your doctor may ask you to keep a food diary of your eating habits, symptoms and medications to pinpoint the problem.)
  • Elimination diet. (You may be asked to eliminate peanuts or other suspect foods for a week or two, and then add the food items back into your diet one at a time. This process can help link symptoms to specific foods. Note: If you've had a severe reaction to foods, this method can't safely be used.)
  • Skin test.
  • Blood test.

Prevent allergic reaction

Since it's hard to determine if a meal contains peanuts or any other nuts even in the ingredients, you have to consider your diet. First, always check the labels! Manufacturers have to note peanut content on their produced food with these labels: "may contain nuts" / "produced on shared equipment with nuts or peanuts" / "produced in a facility that also processes nuts."

  • Never assume a food doesn't contain peanuts. Peanuts may be in foods that you never thought contained them. Manufactured foods are required to clearly state whether foods contain peanuts and if they were produced in factories that also process peanuts. Even if you think you know that food, check the label. Ingredients may change.
  • Don't ignore a label that says a food was produced in a factory that processes peanuts. Most people with a peanut allergy need to avoid all products that could contain even a small trace of peanuts.
  • When in doubt, say "no thanks." In restaurants and social gatherings, you're always taking a risk that you might accidentally eat peanuts. If you have any suspicion at all that a food may contain something you're allergic to, steer clear.
  • Be prepared for a reaction.

Foods that contain peanuts

Peanuts are common, and avoiding foods that contain them can be a challenge. The following foods often contain peanuts:

  • Ground or mixed nuts
  • Baked goods, such as cookies and pastries
  • Ice cream and frozen desserts
  • Energy bars
  • Cereals and granola
  • Grain breads
  • Marzipan, a molding confection made of nuts, egg whites and sugar

Less obvious foods may contain peanuts or peanut proteins, either because they were made with them or because they came in contact with them during the manufacturing process. Some examples include:

  • Nougat
  • Salad dressings
  • Nut butters (such as almond butter) and sunflower seeds
  • Arachis oil, another name for peanut oil
  • Pet food
  • Baked goods. (Cookies, candy, pastries, piecrusts, and others.)
  • Candy, especially chocolate candy
  • Ice cream, frozen desserts, puddings, and hot chocolate.
  • Cereals and granola
  • Chex mix
  • Chili and soups. (Peanuts or peanut butter are sometimes used as thickeners.)
  • Grain breads
  • High-energy bars
  • Honey
  • Nuts are common in African and Asian cooking (especially Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian); also in Mexican and Mediterranean foods
  • Mortadella
  • Meat-free burgers
  • Sauces. (hot sauce, pesto, gravy, mole sauce, glazes, or marinades)
  • Some alcoholic beverages may contain nut flavoring and should be avoided
  • Cosmetics! Lotions and shampoos may contain nut protein too!

Common Ingredients with Nuts

Avoid these when cooking and look for them on prepared food labels:

  • Nut butters. (Almond, cashew, peanut, and others.)
  • Nut pastes. (Includes products like marzipan, almond paste, and nougat.)
  • Nut oils. (Includes cold-pressed or expressed peanut oil, and others.)
  • Hydrolyzed plant or vegetable protein. These can have peanuts in them.
  • Peanut flour
  • Nut extracts, like almond extract.

The following expressions on labels that mean that you should avoid that food:

  • Black walnut hull extract (flavouring)- often used in ingredients
  • Natural nut extract
  • Nut distillates/alcoholic extracts
  • Nut oils (e.g., walnut oil, almond oil)
  • Walnut hull extract (flavouring)

Not everybody knows botanical names of nuts, but it’s needed in this case to be well-informed. At this link you can find many of them:

This list contains coconut too, but it’s a specific one. It’s not a nut, but a fruit, but in the United States, it’s classed as a type of nut, so every list made by them contains coconut. There is a big botanical distance between nuts and coconut, but every case is individually considered, so check it with your doctor to be sure. Other legumes like beans, lentils or peas are likely to be tolerated too, but these questions must be checked in every case.

There is a frequently asked question about nutmeg when talking about nut allergy. Nutmeg can be safe to be eaten by people who have nut allergy. Botanically, nutmeg is not a nut, just in its name. Water chestnuts and butternut squash are also not nuts and are safe to eat.


Copyright: Zsófia Michelin-Corporatum Oy, Content pictures copyrigh: Shutterstock, Development: e-Com