Nuts are one of the most common food allergy triggers. Unlike many other food allergies, people don’t usually outgrow them. Rather, nut allergies tend to hang around for life. Nut allergies can also be very severe, often leading to rapid-onset, life-threatening anaphylaxis marked by difficulty breathing, plunging blood pressure, and cardiac arrest. Milder symptoms of nut allergy include hives, stomach discomfort, and hay fever-type symptoms.
There is nothing inherently bad about nuts. Nut allergies occur when your body mistakes proteins found in nuts for harmful entities such as bacteria or germs. Your body then goes on the offensive, releasing chemicals (including histamine) into the body with the intention of fighting off the “invaders.” The chemicals just end up inflaming the body tissues, though, and contributing to a wide array of allergic reactions.
Peanuts are known for promoting some of the most severe allergic reactions. Peanuts, however, aren’t true nuts but legumes. Other legumes include alfalfa, peas, beans, lentils, and soybeans. Peanuts should be distinguished from tree nuts which include pistachios, cashews, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, and more.
If you do have a nut allergy, you have probably already learned to read food packaging carefully to make sure there are no nut products in the items you wish to eat. It’s also good to carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times in case you have a reaction.
It used to be that if you had nut allergies, you were stuck with them for life, but there is new hope for nut allergy treatment. Variations of allergy immunotherapy are helping to desensitize people to nut and peanut allergens. In one of the more high profile research scenarios, studies at Duke and Cambridge Universities successfully used both oral immunotherapy (tablets) and sublingual immunotherapy (under-the-tongue drops) to treat peanut allergies in children.
In both cases, the body is introduced to gradually increasing amounts of antigen, which helps desensitize it to food proteins. Over time, the body learns to “make peace” with these proteins and stop reacting to them in ways that lead to allergy symptoms. Ask AllergyEasy about food allergy treatment for nut allergies and dozens of other food allergies as well.