What is a Tree Nut Allergy?
A tree nut allergy is an adverse response or overreaction of the body’s immune system to the proteins in tree nuts or products that contain tree nuts. When a tree nut is eaten, the body sees the tree nut proteins as a foreign invader, sending out chemicals to defend against it. Those chemicals are what cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
👥 How common is it?
Tree nut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in adults and children and the prevalence in children appears to be growing.
🌰 What are tree nuts?
Tree nuts include walnut, almond, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio and Brazil nuts. People often confuse peanuts as tree nuts, however peanuts are legumes and grow underground wheres as tree nuts grow on trees! Despite this, between 25% and 40% of individuals who are allergic to peanuts are also allergic to at least one tree nut.
It’s important for allergy sufferers to be aware that coconut is not universally placed in a single allergy category. For example, coconut is classified as a tree nut in the USA, and as a seed in the UK.
An allergic reaction to tree nuts can bring on many symptoms. These include hives or a skin rash; nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting and/or diarrhoea; stuffy or runny nose, headaches, and asthma.
Although less common, some allergy sufferers are also at risk of having a potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction. In extreme cases there could be a dramatic fall in blood pressure, the person may become weak and floppy, and may have a sense of something terrible is happening. This may lead to collapse and unconsciousness. On rare occasions, death can occur.
It is important to be able to recognize and manage reactions quickly in order to prevent serious health consequences. The first line of action for anaphylaxis is the timely use of epinephrine which is available by prescription in a self-injectable device.
If you are concerned that you or your child may have an allergy, you should consult with a medical professional or a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian. If your child is diagnosed with an allergy, it’s important to inform all people involved in the child’s care. This includes their nursery, school, and after-school clubs, as well as grandparents, relatives, and the parents of their school friends.
Managing a Tree Nut Allergy
The most obvious way of managing a tree nut allergy is to avoid eating the tree nuts you are allergic to – blanket avoidance of all tree nuts is not advised.
🛒 Store bought food
As tree nut is one of the major allergens that must be legally listed on packaged foods sold in the U.S and UK, food labels should clearly state when tree nuts are present in the product. They are found in many processed foods, and there is a high risk of cross contamination from products manufactured in the same factory. Product labels should include a ‘May Contain’ warning if this is the case. It is therefore important to read the food labels thoroughly.
🍽 Eating out
If you are in a restaurant or eating food that you haven’t prepared yourself, then ensure you ask about the ingredients first. If you do have a tree nut allergy, it is important to keep an epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times.
📲 Mobile Apps
The free Spoon Guru app includes a Tree Nut filter in its list of food allergies and intolerances to help make the search for suitable products easier. You can select individual tree nuts or the group as a whole, and it even gives you the option of including or excluding products with a ‘May contain’ warning depending on your level of sensitivity. On top of this you can also choose from a selection of other dietary preferences to add to your profile.
You can use the app to search for products and recipes that are suitable for your unique dietary needs, and scan barcodes to make sure a product is suitable for you.
- 🇺🇸 For more information on Tree Nut Allergy in the USA:
- 🇬🇧 For more information on Tree Nut Allergy in the UK:
Please note: This Spoon Guru Fact Sheet should be used as a source of information only. It should not be used as a replacement to nutritional advice from an accredited medical professional. The Spoon Guru app may differ slightly from country to country.