Tree Nut Allergy | One of the 14 Major Food Allergens

More than one million people suffer from a tree nut allergy in the UK, making a tree nut allergy one of the most common food allergies among adults and children. According to AllergyUK, People often develop tree nut allergies before the age of five. Still, all ages can develop a tree nut allergy, even when symptoms have not been present previously. 

What is a Tree Nut Allergy?

AllergyUK says A tree nut allergy is caused by the body’s immune system reacting to the proteins in the nut. The body may think these proteins are harmful intruders, and this causes the immune system to respond by fighting off the proteins. Commonly, a tree nut needs to be consumed to trigger a reaction, but even the smallest amount of nut protein can cause the body to react, and on rare occasions, a response may be caused by inhaling tiny particles of nuts.

 

An allergy to one tree nut does not always mean an allergy to all tree nuts. However, there is an increased chance of having an allergy to more than one tree nut since you can find similar proteins in different nuts. 

According to AllergyUK, People with a tree nut allergy may grow out of them over time, but they will likely be allergic for a lifetime.

Symptoms of a Tree Nut Allergy

According to Food Allergy Canada, on most occasions, an allergic reaction will happen within minutes after exposure to tree nuts (but can occasionally occur several hours after exposure). 

VeryWellHealth says the most common symptoms of a tree nut allergic reaction usually include: 

  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Throat tightness
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Swelling
  • Hives / itchy skin
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness or fainting 
  • In worst-case scenarios, Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis Shock

According to Kids Health, anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction that causes the airways to swell and close, putting the body into shock. 

Anaphylaxis may start with similar symptoms to a milder reaction but quickly worsen. People suffering from an allergic anaphylactic response should immediately use an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) and emergency services should be contacted. 

 

What is a Tree Nut?

According to Science direct, “Tree nuts is the collective term used to describe nuts that grow on trees”. Not all tree nuts are nuts by definition and may be seeds or fruits that have a nut-like appearance and similar role in cooking/eating. 

Tree nuts can be separated into four categories:

 

True nuts may include; chestnuts, hazelnuts and acorns.

 

 

  • Nut-like gymnosperm seeds – These are seeds that do not have an enclosure, which includes pine nuts.

 

  • Nut-like angiosperm seeds –  seeds contained within a larger fruit and are flowering plants whichincludes brazil nuts and macadamia nuts. 

 

Although coconuts are tree nuts (drupe seeds), they are part of the palm family and have a distant relationship with nuts. Coconut allergies are rare (but still exist).

Most Common Tree Nuts

According to the  World atlas, the ten most common tree nuts are:

 

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Chestnut

Peanuts

According to Allergyuk.org, 2% of children in the UK suffer from a peanut allergy. A peanut allergy usually develops in early childhood but may be formed in adulthood. One in five children grows out of a peanut allergy over time. 

 

By definition, peanuts are not nuts; they are legumes. Legumes are a completely different family of plant to tree nuts which means that a peanut allergy does not automatically imply a tree nut allergy. Those with a peanut allergy are 30-40% more likely to develop a tree nut allergy as the proteins are similar in both peanuts and tree nuts. 

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