Nut Allergies: Facts and Prevention

A nut allergy is the second most common allergy in infants and young kids, but unlike other food allergies (such as wheat and egg), nut allergies are not often outgrown. Most persist into adulthood.

nut allergies

Nut Allergy Symptoms:

Once a nut allergy reaction occurs, symptoms may manifest through eyes, skin, respiratory, and digestive issues.

  • Itchy and swollen eyes
  • Rashes/hives
  • Sneezing and impaired breathing
  • Vomiting and stomach cramps
  • Anaphylaxis (serious, sometimes life-threatening reaction)

When an individual with a nut allergy is exposed to the allergen, the body’s immune system overreacts to the nut’s proteins. The body thinks that these proteins are “invaders,” alarming the immune system to respond by trying to ward off these foreign substances. A chemical known as histamine is released in the body during this encounter. Nuts that are commonly associated with these types of allergic reactions include the following:

  • Hazelnut
  • Walnut
  • Cashew
  • Almond
  • Pecan
  • Chestnut
  • Brazil nut

And if you’re wondering why peanut isn’t on that list, note that peanuts are actually legumes. (Though beware that peanut allergies can produce some of the most severe symptoms of any food allergy.)

Managing Nut Allergies

Here are some tips for minimizing allergic reactions to nuts:

  1. Educate family members about reading labels. Remind them to examine food products before purchasing to see if foods contain nuts or were manufactured/packaged in facilities where other nut-laden products were manufactured.
  2. When eating out, take the initiative first and ask managers and waitresses about the ingredients of a meal.
  3. Avoid chances of cross-contamination. This usually occurs on kitchen surfaces and with various utensils including knives, measuring cups, and even toasters. Properly clean surfaces and utensils after use with nuts.
  4. Consult an allergist to provide you more thorough and permanent options for managing nut allergies. A treatment known as sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) that has been used for pollen allergies for the past few decades has been shown to be effective with nut allergies. Contact Family Allergy Clinic for more details about SLIT for nut allergies.