It is important to understand that “nuts” is a broad term, and there are actually two different categories of nuts that you could be allergic to. The first category is peanuts (which are actually legumes). The second category is tree nuts, which include: almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, and cashews.
Both peanut allergies and tree nut allergies are among the eight most common allergenic foods. Peanut allergies in particular are prevalent.
Addressing nut allergies
If you suspect that you may have a nut allergy, you should visit an allergist.
Testing for nut allergies
After your allergist takes a detailed history of your allergic experiences, including prior exposures and possible reactions, your allergist will likely run some tests to further understand your allergies. This will include blood tests and skin prick tests. In all cases, it is incredibly important that a detailed history precedes any testing because allergy tests can often have ‘false positives.
A skin test is administered by exposing your skin to a small amount of the allergen, pricking your skin with a needle, and then looking for reactions, such as raised bumps. Other possibilities include “oral food challenges,” where small, safe amounts of the allergen are fed to you in the allergist’s office, and you are monitored for reactions.
Treating nut allergies
Treating your nut allergies involves avoiding all ingestions of the nut you are allergic to. This is not as easy as it may sound, since peanut and tree nut ingredients are added to pre-packaged ingredients, baking mixes, and sauces. This means that you will become a very careful label reader if you develop a nut allergy.
Cross-contamination is also possible, so watch for warnings such as “product was manufactured on equipment shared with tree nuts or peanuts.”1
Preventing nut allergies
If nut allergies run in your family, or if you are concerned about a nut allergy, you may be wondering what you can do to prevent this from happening. While there is no surefire way of preventing food allergies (sometimes they just happen!), there is some evidence that getting introduced to allergens early in life can help.
If you suddenly show allergy symptoms soon after eating a peanut or tree nut, it’s understandable that you will feel worried, and maybe even panicky. Allergies are frightening, and no one wants to have the feeling or look unwell. If youare exhibiting symptoms that might indicate an allergic reaction, try not to panic, but also make sure to take the symptoms seriously.
If the symptoms appear mild, call your paediatrician’s office for advice or to make an appointment for further examination. If you are showing any signs of a severe reaction, trouble breathing, full body hives or swelling, extreme lethargy, vomiting, or signs of shock—do not hesitate to go to the nearest emergency room.