Nut Allergy Guide | Lifelab Testing

Nut Allergy Guide

Last Updated: 17th January 2023 · Written by Kate Young

Nut allergies are among the most common food allergies affecting adults and children equally. Peanuts are legumes like chickpeas and lentils, and there is a difference between peanut allergy and tree nut allergy. However, around 25-40% of people with peanut allergies are allergic to at least one other nut {1}. Most people with a nut allergy have it for a lifetime, however, approximately 14% of children with a tree nut allergy and 20% with a peanut allergy end up outgrowing them. If you’re a parent and have a child with a nut allergy, there is a chance that siblings of this child will have the same allergy.

Even though peanuts grow underground, unlike tree nuts, those with peanut allergies have the same symptoms as those with tree nut allergies. When you’re allergic to nuts, your immune system reacts to nuts as it mistakes them for something harmful. The first time you consume or inhale nuts, your body won’t react, but your immune system identifies and prepares to act on it if you ever consume it again. So, the next time you contact nuts, your body makes antibodies to fight these nuts. The antibodies latch onto the proteins in nuts – this triggers the immune system, which releases histamines. Histamines are what cause uncomfortable allergy symptoms.

Nut allergy symptoms

Symptoms of a nut allergy range from mild to severe, varying from one person to the next. These symptoms occur within minutes to hours of contact with nuts, either through inhaling their powder, consuming them or, in extreme cases touching them. Common allergy symptoms include:

  • Raised red bumps on the skin – hives (urticaria).
  • Swelling of the lips.
  • Tightening of the throat.
  • Digestive symptoms – cramps, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting.
  • Tingling of the throat and mouth.
  • Itchy skin and nut allergy rash.
  • Runny nose.

The above symptoms are always mild to moderate, which is simple to treat with over-the-counter medications. However, nuts are known to cause severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis. You can identify it through symptoms like:

  • Difficult or noisy breathing.
  • Difficulty talking or a hoarse voice.
  • Wheeze or persistent cough.
  • Swelling of the tongue.
  • Swelling or tightness of the throat.
  • Persistent dizziness or collapse.
  • Paleness and floppiness in young children.

These reactions could be life-threatening, and there is a need for immediate medical care. If you have an Epinephrine injector, use it to administer adrenaline and you can repeat this if your symptoms don’t go away within 5-15 minutes. You also need to call 999 in such situations for help. If you have a nut allergy, you must carry two EpiPens (Auvi-Q, EpiPen, Symjepi) and learn how to use them. If your young one has severe allergies, the drug palforzia may help them lessen the symptoms when they’re exposed.

Is coconut a nut allergy?

Coconuts are not nuts. However, some people allergic to nuts will also be allergic to coconuts. There is also evidence of cross-reactivity between coconuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts. Evidence also suggests an association between coconut allergies with macadamia and almond allergies. Even though there are associations, the chances are pretty low, but you also need to be sure. The same applies to tree nuts. You can find that a person with one tree nut allergy is allergic to other tree nuts but not all. For example, you could have a cashew nut allergy and not have a Brazil nut allergy.

Can you develop a nut allergy?

Although nut allergies are common in children, they can also appear in adults. As an adult, you can have a sudden nut allergy even though you never had it as a kid. However, the chances of developing a nut allergy as an adult are low. Children are the ones who mainly develop nut allergies and many other types of allergies, which they then could possibly outgrow later on in life. Some people, however, have a higher chance of developing nut allergies. Risk factors of nut allergies include:

  • Age: Infants and toddlers often develop food allergies, but as they mature, they are less likely to have these triggers.
  • Other allergies: You’re likely to develop nut allergies if you have allergies such as hay fever or other food allergies.
  • Past allergies: If you had an allergy, let’s say, peanut allergy as a child, it can likely recur when you’re an adult.
  • Family history: Having family members with food allergies puts you at a higher risk of developing the same.
  • Atopic dermatitis: Some people with this condition or eczema also have a food allergy.

Nut allergy treatment

Woman with nut allergy avoiding a plate of nuts
A woman with a nut allergy

There is currently no medicine that will completely treat nut allergy. The best course of treatment for nut allergy is avoidance of them. Ensure you read menus, food labels, ingredients, and so on. You will have to thoroughly read the ingredients in products and food to avoid accidents. Research on using immunotherapy to treat nut allergies is underway. There is, however, a way to prevent nut allergy in children {2}. Giving your child the allergen within 4-6 months may reduce the chances of developing an allergy. You can do this with any food allergens, and it will reduce the risk of developing these food allergies by up to 80%. Children at a higher risk of developing nut allergies are those with eczema, egg allergy or both. Before you introduce possible allergens to your baby, consult their doctor.

Spices to avoid with a nut allergy

It is common for cross-contamination to occur between nuts and spices. So, a person allergic to a specific protein present in nuts may also have the same reaction to spices with similar proteins. However, none causes the other. If you have a nut allergy, it is best to avoid cumin. Cumin can be found on its own or as a part of a spice mix, and often uses nuts as a filler.

Apart from peanuts, if you have nut allergies, you’ll need to avoid the following:

  • Almonds.
  • Hickory nuts.
  • Walnuts.
  • Pecans.
  • Pistachios.
  • Macadamia nuts.
  • Cashews.
  • Hazelnuts.
  • Brazil nuts.
  • Pine nuts.
  • Lychee nuts.
  • Acorns.

Nut allergy test

If you think you are allergic to nuts but you want confirmation, ordering an Allergy Test online is a great option. You’ll receive your test kit, take your sample easily, send it back to the labs, and receive your results within seven days. Our allergy test will analyse your sample against 38 key allergens, including almond and hazelnuts. This allergy test will help you narrow down the nuts you’re allergic to and any other allergens your body is reacting to in your environment, drinks, and food. After this test, you’ll have a clear way of seeing things, and you can finally control your diet and make it work for you. Knowing your allergies allows you to be more informed when cooking, purchasing items and even eating out.

References

  1. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Tree Nut. (https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/food/tree-nut/)
  2. Parrish, C. P. (2018). Management of peanut allergy: A focus on novel immunotherapies.(https://www.ajmc.com/journals/supplement/2018/managed-care-perspective-peanut-allergy/management-of-peanut-allergy-a-focus-on-novel-immunotherapies)

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