Nuts are one of the most common causes of food allergies. It is caused mostly by reactions to peanuts or tree nuts. Tree nuts include Brazils, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans. Peanuts are not really nuts but legumes - related to peas and beans - and grow underground.
Why should I be aware of this?
For decades nut allergy has been recognized as a problem, and in recent years there has been a marked increase in the proportion of children affected. The most difficult part of this is that if you are allergic to nuts it is impossible in practice to guarantee that you will never eat anything containing the nuts you are allergic to.
In case of nut allergy it’s important to check the packaging of food carefully to find out if it contains nut. Even if the food is contaminated by nut during production it can affect us. As it is not a legal requirement to mention if a food is likely to come in contact with nuts, it is even more difficult to make sure of this.
How does this affect me?
Reactions to foods, like peanuts and tree nuts, can vary in nature and sometimes the same person can react differently at different times. Reactions can begin with very mild and involve only one system of the body, like hives on the skin. Other reactions can be more severe and involve more than one part of the body. Most reactions last less than a day and affect any of these four body systems:
- Skin. Most common food allergy is skin reaction. They can show up as itchy, red, bumpy rashes (hives), eczema, or redness and swelling around the mouth or face.
- Gastrointestinal system. This can result in belly cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Respiratory system. Symptoms like runny or stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes, and sneezing can accur, with coughing and wheezing.
- Cardiovascular system. A person may feel lightheaded or faint.
All about nut allergies
Nuts and peanuts can cause allergic reactions, which can sometimes be severe. A severe reaction to nuts is called anaphylaxis which, at times, can be life-threatening. Symptoms often start within an hour of coming into contact with a nut, and sometimes within minutes.
In most cases the first allergic reaction takes place when a child is between 14 months and two years old. Unlike other food allergies such as milk allergy, one normally doesn’t grow out of nut allergies. Only those who have very mild reactions have a chance to grow out of it.
Of mild allergic reaction
- Tingling feeling in mouth or lips.
- Swelling of face
- Sick feeling
- Urticaria (nettle rash or hives).
- Colicky pains in your
- A feeling of tightness around your throat.
Of a more severe allergic reaction
- All of the above.
- An asthma-like attack, with wheezing or difficulty breathing or swelling around your throat.
- A sense of impending doom.
- Dilation of your blood vessels which can cause:
o general redness of your skin o a fast heart rate o a low blood pressure, which can cause you to feel faint or to collapse.
Unless there is immediate medical attention in case of anaphylaxis, it can soon lead to unconsciousness. A small number of people die every year as a result of this kind of severe reaction, mainly for lack of immediate treatment.
What can I do?
- Strictly avoid nuts, including peanuts and tree nuts like cashews and walnuts, and food containing nuts. But as many unsuspecting products contain nuts, it is very difficult to avoid.
- Learn all the different names for peanuts and peanut products, as these vary throughout the world.
- Before buying or using any product always check the label ingredients. Check every time you purchase as manufacturers occasionally change recipes.
- If products such as baked goods, candy and ethnic foods, are prepared in the same place by the same manufacturer, they can be contaminated. Always be prepared for this possibility and the risk of a reaction.
- Tree nuts are sometimes used in lotions and shampoos. Be sure to check labels of these products, as well as food labels.
- Nut allergy can be prevented by avoiding foods that contain nuts, but if you do come in contact and get reactions, then treating it quickly will help to minimize the risks.
- Ask the person in charge of meals at your child's school not to serve any food with a peanut product in it.
- Make sure the restaurants you frequent have a peanut product notification policy.
- If you have a severe allergic reaction, if available, give yourself an adrenaline injection straightaway and call an ambulance.
If you are well prepared and take action quickly the risk of suffering any serious problems is small.
Surprisingly small children are amazingly good about avoiding nuts if they are allergic to them. Parents make few mistakes. The main danger to children seems to come from mistakes made by adults other than their parents. That said, some foods contain nuts in a way which is not obvious, and anyone will make a mistake occasionally.
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