Living With Nut Allergies

Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies. According the U.S. FDA, about 6% of children aged 3 and younger. Research has shown that peanuts are the number one culprit of fatal food allergy reactions, next are tree nuts.

Peanuts are not actually nuts but legumes (like peas and lentils). Peanut allergy is less likely to be outgrown than allergies to other foods. Thus, this allergy becomes more common among older kids and adults. It’s possible that American’s are more allergic to peanuts than any other food.

How peanut or tree nut allergy work?

A person who is allergic to peanuts, when exposed to the substance, their immune system mistakenly believes that proteins called allergens in the peanut are harmful to the body. The body’s immune system produces antibodies called immunoglobin E (IgE) that then cause allergy cells – mast cells – in the body to release chemicals into the bloodstream. One of these chemicals is histamine. The histamine then acts on a person’s eyes, nose, throat, lungs skins or even the gastrointestinal tract. This causes symptoms of allergic reaction.

Allergic reaction varies. Some reactions can be severe, even though the person is only exposed to a small amount. The reason behind this is probably because the immune system recognizes peanut proteins easier than other food proteins.

What dangers exist from a peanut or tree nut allergy?

  • A tingling feeling in the lips or mouth
  • An itchy nettle rash (urticaria, hives) , either where the nuts touch you, or elsewhere
  • Swelling (angioedema) , either where the nuts touch you, or elsewhere
  • Swelling in the throat , causing difficulty in swallowing or breathing
  • Asthma symptoms
  • Vomiting
  • Cramping stomach pains
  • Backache
  • Diarrhea
  • Faintness and unconsciousness
  • Death due to obstruction to breathing or more rarely extreme low blood pressure (anaphylactic shock)
  • Confusion / delirium

What are the other kind of nut allergies

Peanuts and other tree nuts’ allergen structures are very similar. This could be why nearly half of people who are allergic to peanuts are also allergic to other tree nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios. As with peanuts, tree nut allergic reactions vary. Some reactions can be very sever even with small exposures.

How to reduce the risks of food allergy reaction? 

Keep your home nut free.

Watch out for cross-contamination. Contamination can happen with utensils, cookware, etc. For instance, do not use any utensil you use to get some peanut butter to prepare other foods.

Don’t eat or serve cooked foods that you didn’t prepare yourself or don’t know the ingredients.

Tell people who handle your food (especially if you’re eating out), from waiters, cooks, pantry staff at school, etc. about the allergy. If the manager or owner of the restaurant is uncomfortable about your request, do not eat there.

Make your (or your family members’) lunches, snacks, etc. to take to school, parties, play dates, sleepovers, other outings.

If you have school aged kids, talk to the school supervisor before your child goes. Work together to avoid possible exposures and to plan emergency action plans.

Have epinephrine with you all the time, and by ‘with you’ that means on your person and not in the glove compartment of your car.