Whether you suffer from a nut allergy yourself or know a friend or family member that does, this is everything you need to know about nut allergies and allergic reactions.

If living with a possible life-threatening allergy, it’s important that not only nut allergy sufferers are educated, but also those who surround us are too. Having had a nut allergy since birth, I have luckily never had a serious reaction, but I have definitely become very cautious with what foods I consume and can quickly spot if I am about to have an allergic reaction.

So, here’s everything you need to know from what a nut allergy is, to what steps you should take if you encounter an allergy attack yourself or how to help someone else.

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and all work is from my own research and experiences. Consult your GP or other medical professionals for more information*

What is a nut allergy?

(Image: https://allergynorthwest.nhs.uk/resources/allergy-leaflets/tree-nut-allergy/)

A nut allergy can be defined in terms of tree nuts or peanuts or sometimes both.

Tree nuts are often described as a hard-shelled nut and include; cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, chestnuts, pistachios, walnuts, pecans and shea nuts.

Peanuts are often classified as legumes but have a similar protein structure to tree nuts.

Having an allergy means that an individual’s immune system overreacts when a tree nut or peanut enters their body.

The symptoms of nut allergy sufferers can vary if consuming nuts. For me personally, my throat is often the first giveaway as I feel it close up, followed by a swelling lip. However, other symptoms may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Hoarseness
  • Throat tightness
  • Stomach-ache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Itchy, watery, or swollen eyes
  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Anxiety or a feeling something bad is happening
  • Anaphylaxis

(For the original list, click here)

How do you know if you have a nut allergy?

Most people are born with nut allergies. However, it is possible to develop an allergy later in teenage and adult years. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, then you should definitely see your GP. Medical professionals will be able to provide an allergy test and determine any allergies you may have.

If you are a nut allergy sufferer, what should you do when consuming or buying food?

(Image: https://metro.co.uk/2017/09/30/10-things-youll-only-know-if-you-have-a-nut-allergy-6959394/)

When buying packaged foods in supermarkets, it’s a lot easier to find an ingredient list to see if there are any nuts. There is often a risk of cross-contamination and you should ideally avoid these foods too, but it’s not always possible.

However, restaurants are often a lot harder to find out about nuts in dishes. It very rare that there will be a complete ingredient list for every single dish on the menu, so it’s important to always ask your waiter if any nuts are added. No matter how awkward it feels or if it makes you feel like you’re being too ‘extra’ and overly cautious, it’s always best to be safe than sorry. I have learnt to ask every time I visit a new restaurant and no matter what cuisine. With the rise of vegan and gluten-free options, there are often a lot of nut-based alternatives used in dishes now and also popular restaurants like Five Guys, cook with peanut oil, so it’s always important to ask what’s in your food and how it is prepared.

What are the causes of an allergic reaction?

How severe a nut allergy can be, can vary. For some, being in the presence of nuts or inhaling the smell can cause a reaction. However, the majority of people will be allergic to consuming nuts. There does not often have to be a large amount to cause a reaction, as even the tiniest bit of a chocolate piece or cookie with nuts can cause an allergic reaction in the body.

What to do if you are having an allergic reaction or how to help someone who is having an allergic reaction?

An allergic reaction to nuts can vary in time, whether it’s immediate like I usually experience or happens gradually over an hour or two.

For mild and moderate reactions:

  • Take an antihistamine (can be consumed as tablets or liquid) such as Benadryl or Piriton. (If this is not available, follow the steps for serious reaction)
  • After the reaction, drink lots of water to flush out the nut protein in the body.

 For more serious reactions such as anaphylaxis:

 

(Image: https://www.goodnet.org/articles/first-fdaapproved-generic-epipen-will-soon-be-available)

  • Inject an epi-pen into the thigh. Click here to watch a demonstration video.
  • Call 999.
  • After the reaction drink lots of water to flush out the nut protein in the body.

 

Other things to note:

  • If you have a nut allergy remember to tell your friends, new people or when you go out to eat together.
  • Make sure to register or be prescribed an epi-pen from your doctor and replace it every few months.
  • Carry your epi-pen with you always – try and have multiple epi pens just in case, one in your bag, one in your car etc.
  • Also, carry antihistamine tablets and have some on hand in your home. I always carry tablets in my bag just in case I encounter a quick and mild reaction.

 

Useful contacts:

  • Call 999 for life-threatening emergencies.
  • Call 111 for the NHS (medical emergencies).
  • To find your nearest A&E click here.

 

(Feature image: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320257.php)