Tree Nut Allergy

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tree nuts

An allergy to tree nuts is one of the most common allergies among children and adults. It is often linked to anaphylaxis, along with peanut and shellfish allergies. Even a small trace of a tree nut is enough to cause a severe allergic reaction. These allergies are usually long-term with only about 10% of people outgrowing them.

Many individuals confuse tree nuts with other nuts such as chestnuts, coconuts, and shea nuts. However, these nuts are not tree nuts. Although the Food and Drug Administration labels coconut as a tree nut, it’s actually a fruit. Many individuals allergic to tree nuts can safely consume coconuts and other nuts. Discuss these exceptions with your NYC allergist to see what nuts will not cause an allergic reaction.

Tree nuts are usually cross-reactive. This means that if you are allergic to one type of tree nut, you should try to avoid them all. You may also need to avoid peanuts. Peanuts are legumes and not related to tree nuts, but many people allergic to tree nuts also react to peanuts. An NY allergy specialist can help you decide what is safe for you or your child.

Types Of Tree Nuts

Almond Brazil nut Beechnut
Chestnut Cashew Coconut
Filbert Hazelnut Ginkgo nut
Hickory nut Lychee Nut Macadamia nut
Nangai nut Pecan Pili nut
Pistachio Pine nut Walnut

Tree Nut Allergy Foods to Avoid

Mixed nuts Almond milk Some chocolates
Nut butter Some baked goods Pralines

Tree Nut Allergy Food List You May Need to Avoid

Mortadella Nut oils Nut extract Breakfast cereals
Ice cream Flavored coffee Crackers Marinades & Sauces

Tree Nut Allergy Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, and vomiting
  • Tree nut allergy rash or hives
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Itching of the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, or any other area
  • Swelling of the face and throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anaphylaxis

Tree nuts exhibit many severe allergic reactions. Even the symptoms of a tree nut allergy that are considered mild come with extreme discomfort. These allergic reactions usually start off slow, affecting the skin. You might get a rash before you begin to swell. It’s best to treat these symptoms in the early stages instead of waiting for the reaction to possibly get worse.

Mild symptoms are often brought on within minutes while more severe ones can take hours to appear. People who have had a mild tree nut allergy reaction in the past are at risk for more severe reactions in the future. So even if your first exposure doesn’t result in anaphylaxis, it can occur later.

Tree Nut Allergy Diagnosis

Since tree nuts are responsible for severe allergic reactions, it’s important to get the allergy diagnosed in early childhood. Most people develop a tree nut allergy or sensitivity when they’re young, but it’s possible to get it later in life. You should undergo frequent tree nut allergy testing if you’re at risk of developing a tree nut allergy. Those at risk of developing this allergy include individuals allergic to peanuts as well as those with parents or other family members that suffer from food allergies. Visit an allergist for a skin prick test to get your tree nut allergy diagnosed.

This form of allergy testing is most commonly used. A skin test diagnoses your tree nut allergy in less than 20 minutes. It involves pricking the skin with the allergen to evoke a reaction. A positive result is indicated by an itchy raised bump on the skin. If a bump or wheal doesn’t appear, there’s a strong possibility that you aren’t allergic to tree nuts.

Skin prick tests do produce false results sometimes. In this case, a doctor might suggest a blood test for allergies or a tree nut allergy patch test. They will send you to a nearby lab to have your blood drawn and tested. This method is better for patients who suffer from skin conditions that might skew the results of a skin test. The blood test is also a better option for those that do not want to experience the discomfort of itchy skin from the prick.

Tree Nut Allergy Treatment

While there are studies focusing on immunotherapy for food allergies, these therapies have not yet been approved by the FDA. Food oral immunotherapy involves eating a small dose of the allergen and gradually increasing the amount over time. This method attempts to desensitize patients to the allergy.

Food oral immunotherapy has been a controversial subject among doctors. Many believe that the risks are much greater than the benefits. This treatment could cause many severe allergic reactions in the process, making patients depend on epinephrine more often. Since epinephrine auto-injectors come with a heavy price tag for some people ($600 for a pack of two), it’s not an option for everyone.

Until more research is done on eliminating food allergies, the best treatment is avoidance. The allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers have provided a list of tree nuts you need to avoid. We understand that it’s not always possible to avoid to tree nuts, so carry your prescribed EpiPen or Auvi-Q.

Tree Nut Allergy Frequently Asked Questions

Are Peanuts Considered Tree Nuts?

Peanuts are not considered tree nuts. They are legumes and grow in the ground, not on a tree.

How is Tree Nut Allergy Diagnosed?

Tree nut allergy is diagnosed by allergy testing.

How is Tree Nut Allergy Treated?

Tree nut allergy symptoms are treated with antihistamines and epinephrine. For asthma symptoms, an inhaled corticosteroid may be needed as well.

How Many People With a Peanut Allergy Also Have a Tree Nut Allergy?

Studies show that up to 50% of those with a peanut allergy are also allergic to at least one tree nut.

If I’m Allergic to Pecans, Can I Still Eat Cashews?

While tree nuts do often cross-react, it’s possible to be allergic to one tree nut and not the others. Talk to your food allergy doctor about which tree nuts are safe for you.

Is a Tree Nut Allergy Curable?

No, tree nut allergy is not curable. However, an allergist can help you manage your symptoms.

Is Acorn a Tree Nut?

Acorns are considered tree nuts as they are from oak trees. They are also called oak nuts.

Is Coconut a Tree Nut?

The FDA labels coconut as a tree nut because they are closely related to palm tree nuts. They raise concern on food labels because they can cause similar or exact symptoms of tree nuts.

Is Pistachio a Tree Nut?

Pistachio is technically a seed but considered a tree nut because of its hard shell and where it grows. It originates from the pistachio tree in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Why Are People Allergic to Tree Nuts?

The proteins in tree nuts can cause an allergic reaction when consumed or inhaled.