Nut and Peanut Allergy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that 6% of children younger than 3 years old have some kind of allergy to food. Children generally do not outgrow allergies to peanuts or nuts. About 1.5 million people in the United States are allergic to peanuts (which are not a nut but a legume – in the same family as peas and lentils). Half of those allergic to peanuts are also allergic to tree nuts, such as cashews, walnuts, pecans and almonds.

Foods That Might Contain Nuts

  1. Artificial nuts – such as peanuts that have been deflavored and reflavored with a nut flavoring (like pecan or walnut).
  2. Baked goods – baking mixes, breads, cakes and pastries with unknown ingredients, particularly carrot cake, pumpkin cake or pie, and fruit and nut rolls.
  3. Breakfast foods – muesli, breakfast cereals, breakfast or health bars.
  4. Main dishes – Asian foods (like satay, pad thai, egg rolls), vegetarian dishes, chili.
  5. Salad dressings and sauces – gravy, nut and peanut oils, pesto, prepared sauces, salad dressings, and condiments (like barbeque sauce and Worcestershire sauce).
  6. Soups – bouillon, soups that use nuts as a thickening agent.
  7. Sweets – chocolate candies, desserts, ice cream, marzipan, nougat, pralines.

Signs and Symptoms

A runny nose, a skin rash or tingly tongue can be the first sign of an allergic reaction. More serious symptoms can include a sudden, potentially severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), swelling in the throat, difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, or unconsciousness. Other symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, hives, or diarrhea.

How Is A Nut Allergy Treated?

There is no real cure for food allergies. By knowing and avoiding foods that trigger an allergic reaction, you can safely lead a healthy life. Parents must educate their children about the dangers of consuming peanuts or tree nuts. Be sure to notify teachers, neighbors, caregivers and relatives about the allergy.

Caring For Your Child

  1. Read Food Labels: Food manufacturing companies are required to clearly state on the label if a product contains tree nuts or peanuts that could trigger an allergic reaction.
  2. Anything with an unknown list of ingredients should be avoided. Stay away from chilis, Asian dishes, baking mixes and buffet restaurants where spoons go in and out of various bowls that may contain nuts or seeds.
  3. Do not let other people feed your children. Pack lunches for school, as well as snacks and treats for parties. Talk with other parents for play dates and sleepovers. Notify the school for outings and school functions.
  4. Avoid fried foods. These foods may be fried in peanut oil or contain hidden peanuts or nuts.
  5. Tell everyone that handles the food your child eats about the allergy. If the staff is uncomfortable about your request – do not eat there.

Other tips that may help:

  1. Carry a list of foods to avoid
  2. Wash hands often with soap and water after meals
  3. Consult a Registered Dietitian to help with safe but delicious meals and snacks