Tree nut allergies are very common in the U.S. Nearly 1 out of every 20 people are allergic to one or more tree nuts, with the most common allergies caused by cashews, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts.
While peanut allergies are also common, peanuts are classified as legumes and not tree nuts. It’s possible to have both a peanut allergy and a tree nut allergy. In fact, 25%-40% of people with peanut allergies are allergic to one or more tree nuts. This is because peanuts and tree nuts share similar proteins.
What are signs and symptoms of tree nut allergies?
Tree nut allergies can cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including:
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
- Itching, particularly in these areas:
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath
If you have a tree nut allergy, you may get a different set of symptoms at different stages in life. The most severe symptom is a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, which can cause throat swelling and severe breathing difficulty. It can also send the body into shock.
How are tree nut allergies treated?
If you are allergic to one type of tree nut, you may be allergic to other tree nuts as well, since many nuts contain similar proteins that are responsible for triggering the immune system to cause an allergic reaction. Nearly 50% of children who are allergic to one tree nut are allergic to another tree nut.
For example, if you are allergic to almonds, you are more likely to be allergic to hazelnuts as well. The same is true when it comes to walnuts and pecans, and pistachios and cashews.
If you think you may have a tree nut allergy, avoid all tree nuts until your doctor can determine which tree nuts you are allergic to by conducting allergy tests such as a skin prick test or a skin patch test.
If you develop anaphylaxis, you can self-inject a shot of epinephrine, which is available in the market in the form of an EpiPen. Visit the nearest emergency room if your symptoms worsen and you do not feel better.
Make sure you read labels before buying packaged foods since nuts may be used in the preparation of baked products or included as toppings in salads, soups, and other foods. You should also look for warnings that say whether the product has been prepared in a facility where the food may have come in contact with tree nuts.
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