Here is a compilation of frequently asked questions about nut allergies. If you think you may have an allergy to nuts or any other food, talk to a doctor to get tested and set up a treatment plan.
What Causes Allergies?
An allergy is the result of the body’s immune system abnormally overreacting when exposed to what is usually a harmless substance. Substances that trigger an allergic reaction are known as allergens. There are many different types of allergies, such as allergies to food, pollen, and other environmental factors, medicines, insect stings, and latex.
Can All Nuts Cause a Nut Allergy?
There can be confusion between peanuts and tree nuts, but peanuts are not in fact nuts, they are legumes that are edible seeds of plants from the legume family. Other common legumes include lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans, and soybeans. However, studies have shown that 25%-40% of individuals with a peanut allergy, also react to at least one tree nut, which can include walnuts, almonds, pecan, hazelnut, cashew, and pistachio. This could be due to cross-contamination between tree nuts and peanuts in food processing facilities. Note that both raw and cooked nuts can cause allergic reactions.
What Are the Symptoms of a Nut Allergy?
A nut allergy can cause a variety of symptoms that may involve the skin or the gastrointestinal (GI), respiratory, or cardiovascular systems. Symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Itching of the mouth, throat, or eyes
- Swelling of the lips, face, or around the eyes
- Runny nose and sneezing or nasal congestion
- Itchy skin rash (hives)
More serious symptoms include:
- Swelling of the tongue/throat (which may affect breathing and speech)
- Persistent cough, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Difficulty swallowing
- Change in voice
- Skin discoloration (pale or blue skin tone)
Anaphylaxis is a serious reaction that can impair breathing and send the body into shock. It can simultaneously affect different parts of the body and if it is not treated promptly, it can quickly become life-threatening.
Is There Treatment for A Nut Allergy?
Preventing an allergic reaction from happening in the first place is the most important factor if you live with a nut allergy. Allergies to peanuts and tree nuts are among the most common cause of anaphylaxis. If you have a tree nut or peanut allergy, your allergy doctor will advise you to carry an auto-injector (EpiPen, EpiPen Jr., Twinject) containing epinephrine (adrenaline) and will teach you how to use it. This is the only treatment for anaphylactic shock. You should always seek emergency medical treatment even if you use an epinephrine shot.
There is no cure for a nut allergy, but immunotherapy is a treatment that aims to desensitize the body to certain allergens. It works by safely introducing small amounts of specific allergens to your body over a period of time, allowing your body to build up immunity to the allergen. It is more commonly used for environmental allergens, but the first FDA-approved peanut immunotherapy treatment has recently become available making the treatment more accessible. Speak to your allergy doctor for more information about immunotherapy treatment.
How Do I Manage My Nut Allergy?
The best way to manage a nut allergy is to avoid nuts and products containing nuts, including nut oils, butter, and toiletries (such as body lotions, soaps, shampoo). It is important to learn to recognize foods that may contain nuts and read all food product labels. Try to prepare food from scratch as processed foods can make it harder to identify nut products in the ingredients. Nuts can be found in many products, such as baking mixes, sauces, and desserts. Nuts are often used as garnishes in salads and ingredients in Asian dishes.
An allergy doctor can safely assess your nut allergy in a controlled environment in order to diagnose which specific nuts you have an allergy to. An allergy doctor is also specially trained to help you identify hidden sources of nuts in products enabling you to better manage your allergy.
How Do I Prevent an Allergic Reaction?
Avoiding nuts is the only certain way to prevent an allergic reaction. If you eat out, always make the restaurant aware of your allergies, and try to speak to the chef directly, if possible. Wear a medical alert ID bracelet or necklace to make people aware of your allergies in the event you need emergency medical care.
You should carry an emergency shot with you at all times. Those around you (particularly care-givers of children with allergies), family, friends, and co-workers, should be told that you have a particular food allergy and instructed on how to give you the emergency shot in the event that you are unable to administer it to yourself.
How Long Does It Take to Have an Allergic Reaction?
Symptoms of an allergic reaction usually begin straight away or within a few minutes. It can, however, take as long as two hours after exposure to the allergen. In some cases, symptoms can come back 1-4 hours after the initial symptoms go away, known as a biphasic reaction. This is why close observation is important, particularly in children with allergies.
What Should I Do If I Have an Allergic Reaction?
For mild reactions, take an antihistamine tablet as soon as possible (available from pharmacies or on prescription). Monitor your symptoms, and if they get worse, seek immediate medical help.
For severe reactions, you must use your auto-injector. Get medical help immediately and try to have someone stay with you in case your symptoms become worse. If you also have asthma and have an inhaler, use it.
Nut Allergy Treatment in Bradenton, FL
If you suspect you have a nut allergy, don’t delay and speak to an experienced allergy doctor, Dr. Aresery at Intercoastal Medical Group for the specialist care you need.
To find out more about our allergy and immunology services, as well as the other healthcare services we provide, call us today at (941) 362-8640 for an appointment. Alternatively, you can request an appointment online. Dr. Aresery sees patients at our Lakewood Ranch I office in Bradenton.