All you need to know about nut allergy
The term nut allergy has certainly already come up in everyday life, as allergic reactions to nuts occur relatively frequently.
Of particular interest: the name nut allergy as such is misleading, because in some cases the symptom-triggering allergens are botanically not nuts. In technical terms, therefore, there is always talk of an allergy to nuts.
What actually triggers the allergy, what symptoms can you expect, and diagnosis and therapy of the colloquial nut allergy: We would like to deal with all of this in this article.
What is nut allergy?
It is an immunological reaction of the body to individual nuts, which occurs relatively often in children and adults.
It can cause a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms, including anaphylactic shock. While we know some triggers of nut allergy, we often tend to attribute other allergens (such as peanut) mistakenly to nut allergies.
What triggers the allergy
In principle, any nut can trigger a hypersensitivity. A simultaneous allergy to several nuts is less common. Therefore, it is important to find out which is the actual root cause of the immune response in order to avoid it from now on.
Important in this context: Nut allergies often occur as cross allergies. In this case, the nuts themselves do not trigger the original allergy (more on this later).
The most common allergens related to an allergy to nuts:
Hazelnut (top of the statistics)
Interesting beyond that:
Many people automatically consider peanut allergy to be a nut allergy. That is not right! The very common peanut allergy is one of the allergies to legumes. Botanically speaking, the peanut is not a nut.
Nutmeg also causes confusion. Despite the name, this is a seed. Like other seeds (linseed, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc), it rarely triggers allergies.
Botanically, coconuts and chestnuts (chestnuts are nuts) but are rarely the cause of allergies.
Nut allergy and its symptoms
As with all other hypersensitivities, nut allergies lead to a faulty reaction of the immune system. It all starts with an actually harmless substance.
In this case, the body mistakes and perceives the respective nuts as an enemy and, thus, the immune system fights it off violently. The body reacts to the allergen with different symptoms in various forms.
Common symptoms of an allergy to nuts include:
In the gastrointestinal area: abdominal pain, cramps, nausea and vomiting, flatulence, diarrhea, heartburn
On the skin: wheals, hives, itching, rashes, redness (flush symptom), episodes of neurodermatitis, and/or psoriasis.
In the area of the respiratory tract/lungs: cough, shortness of breath, asthma
Regarding the cardiovascular system: cardiac arrhythmia, rapid heartbeat, sweating, in the worst case: allergic shock (anaphylactic shock)
In addition: burning and swelling in the area of the mouth, nose, eyes and throat; headache/migraine; dizziness/exhaustion
How quickly symptoms appear after consuming the allergenic substance varies and also depends on the severity of the allergy.
Sometimes even small amounts of the allergen immediately lead to severe symptoms, other times around complaints are delayed. In addition, one can often observe milder symptoms with a nut allergy known as cross allergy.
How does it get diagnosed?
The test that unmistakably exposes a nut allergy is the classic allergy test. An allergist uses the common methods of diagnosis: skin test (prick test) and blood test (lgE test). This enables the doctor to easily identify the respective allergens.
The nut allergy as cross allergy
A good part of all identified nut allergies consists of cross allergies to existing pollen allergies.
Strictly speaking, we can refer to a cross allergy as a mix-up. It arises when allergens are similar. For example, there is originally an allergy to pollen and due to the similarity of pollen and nuts, the immune system ultimately responds to both.
An allergy to almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts or walnuts is classic as a cross allergy to a birch pollen allergy.
The reverse version is also possible: Originally there was a “real” nut allergy and cross allergies to pollen occurred.
Often the nut allergy as cross allergy shows somewhat more moderate symptoms. In the winter months, when there is no pollen count, it can even temporarily disappear.
In addition, desensitization to pollen if there is an existing cross allergy also affects the allergy to nuts. (Desensitization would be of no use in a real nut allergy)
Treatment of a nut allergy
If you find out that you have an allergy to nuts, you must strictly avoid the respective allergen (rarely there are several nuts).
You normally can consume all other nuts without hesitation. In order to develop a feeling for what foods might contain the allergy-causing substance, I advise you to take nutritional advice.
Medication (antihistamines or, in very severe cases, emergency medication for anaphylactic shock) helps in acute cases if you had contact with the allergen.
You should avoid these foods
Basically, it is not enough to avoid the allergy-causing nuts in their pure form, you also have to be careful not to eat any products in which they are processed. Exactly sifting through ingredient lists is, therefore, inevitable.
You must avoid the following foods if you have a nut allergy or take a closer look:
Bread/rolls (low carb recipe)
Cakes, pies, cookies and other pastries
Chocolate, sweets, granola bars, trail mix, marzipan, …
Spreads (chocolate spreads etc.)
Cereal and breakfast cereal
Milkshakes/milk mix drinks/cocoa powder/instant drinks/protein drinks
Yogurts, desserts, puddings
Breadcrumbs; Breaded (shrimp, fish, etc.)
Ready meals of all kinds
Cheese and sausage preparations
Meat salads, egg salads
Pesto, oils, ready-made sauces and dressings
I hope that this article can be helpful for you and/or a loved one who suffers from a nut allergy. Fell free to share your experiences and stories with us. also, leave a comment below f you have any questions, and I shall get back to you ASAP.
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