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What Causes a Nut Allergy?
Both tree nuts and peanuts can cause allergies in some people. Examples of tree nuts that can cause allergies are hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and cashews. Peanuts are technically legumes since they grow in the ground, but those with tree nut allergies typically need to avoid peanuts also and vice versa. Nut allergies can become life threatening in some people, causing anaphylaxis, a sudden swelling of the face, mouth and throat that causes the airways to swell shut. If not treated immediately, this type of allergic reaction can be fatal. Nut allergies are one of the most common food allergies.
Nut Allergy Symptoms
Nut allergies occur when the body identifies a nut or nut oil as an invader, triggering the release of histamine to rid the body of the allergen. Symptoms usually occur within minutes of consumption. The allergy's severity determines the symptoms, which can be serious enough to require immediate emergency medical care.
Symptoms can include digestive upset like stomach pain, nausea or vomiting after eating foods containing nuts. Skin reactions like hives are also possible, including an itching sensation around the mouth after consumption. Asthma related symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath, runny nose, congestion and sneezing are also common. More serious reactions include increased heartbeat, dizziness and anaphylaxis which require immediate treatment. Those with serious nut allergies are often required to carry an “epi-pen” to administer an adrenaline shot in case of accidental exposure.
Diagnosing Nut Allergies
Nut allergies are usually diagnosed through a history of symptoms and physical examination to rule out any other possible problems. The doctor will likely ask what happened after you ate nuts, how long it took for the reaction to take place and what amount of nuts were in the food eaten. The presence of a nut allergy may be confirmed with an elimination diet, skin test and/or blood test.
Sometimes reactions to more than one type of food may be suspected. In that instance your doctor may require an elimination diet where you will be asked to eliminate all suspect foods for a couple of weeks and then gradually add them back in to see if a reaction occurs.
Skin tests and blood tests are often ordered. Skin prick tests involve placing a small amount of a suspected allergen just under the skin surface and waiting for fifteen minutes to see if there is a reaction. A raised bump or irritation at the site indicates a positive result. Blood tests can also be used to measure the body's immune response to particular foods by checking the level of immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) in your system.
Even if allergies aren't present, some people may have an intolerance to peanuts and other nuts that causes a less severe reaction. Those with mild intolerance may be able to eat nuts with minor symptoms because an intolerance doesn't trigger a full allergic immune response. Those with full nut allergies tend to experience more severe reactions.
Help for Nut Allergies
Those with nut allergies should avoid eating foods that contain nut products. There are no cures for nut allergies, although desensitization has been shown to be successful in some cases of children with peanut allergies. Desensitization therapy involves giving allergic children increasing doses of peanut extract or peanut flour over time to create tolerance.
Minor allergic reactions are usually treated with antihistamines to help reduce symptoms like itching and sneezing. Homeopathic remedies can also be used successfully to relieve minor irritation caused by nut allergies. AllergyEase Nut & Seed is a 100% homeopathic remedy that can be used safely in both adults and children to temporarily relieve symptoms of minor allergies caused by nuts, peanuts and seeds.