What is Nut Allergy?
Nuts are types of fruits that come covered in an inedible and hard shell with an edible seed inside. Nuts are a popular source of food as they are energy-dense and calorie-rich. Starting from small pine nuts to larger walnuts, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts, there are so many tree nuts enjoyed all over the world.
Nut allergy lasts for a lifetime and can lead to serious complications when the affected person is not treated. 80% of all children diagnosed with tree nut allergies don’t outgrow the condition.
What Causes Allergic Responses In People With A Nut Allergy?
When a person with a nut allergy consumes nuts, the person’s body considers it as a harmful and dangerous foreign substance. The immune system is alerted, and it releases a hormone called histamine to handle the foreign substance.
Histamine can cause a variety of responses in the body, some of which can be unpleasant and painful.
Nut Allergy Symptoms
- Swelling of lips and tongue
- Tightening of throat and airways making it difficult to breathe
- Rashes all over the body
- Coughing and wheezing
- Itching around the eyes, nose, and mouth
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Hives (red bumps on the skin)
- Digestive trouble like diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and nausea
- Anaphylaxis - Anaphylaxis is one of the most severe symptoms of allergies. This is a life-threatening condition that puts the body in shock. It progresses quickly and renders causes breathlessness and an inability to function normally.
Are Peanut Allergy And Nut Allergy The Same?
Most people assume that peanuts are a form of nuts. This is not true. Peanuts are legumes, and a peanut allergy is different from a nut allergy. However, if you are allergic to peanuts, it is common to be allergic to one or a few types of nuts too.
Also, if you are allergic to one nut, you could be allergic to others too. This is why doctors advise people with a diagnosed nut allergy to stay away from all kinds of nuts.
How Does Genetics Influence Nut Allergy?
The STAT6 gene helps produce the Signal Transducer And Activator Of Transcription 6 protein. This protein controls the IL4-mediates inflammatory biological responses in the body. IL-4 promotes conditions like asthma and allergic inflammations in the body.
rs324015 polymorphism in the STAT6 gene
A nut allergy study carried out in the UK, compared the effects of the rs324015 polymorphism of the STAT6 gene on nut allergies. The study concluded that those with nut allergies had an increased frequency of the G allele of the rs324015 SNP.
Non-Genetic Influences On Nut Allergies
Age - Tree nut allergies are more common in children and toddlers when compared to adults. The symptoms are also more severe in children whose digestive systems are not as mature as that of adults.
Other related allergies - If you have some kind of food allergy or an existing case of peanut allergy, it is expected that you also develop a nut allergy.
Cross-contamination - Cross-contamination is a process by which nuts allergic to you get transferred to another safer food substance unintentionally. Such contaminations can happen during the production or packaging process. If you have existing nut allergies, cross-contamination can end up causing a flare-up of the symptoms.
This is why the FALCPA (Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004) requires food and beverage brands to mention if their manufacturing facility deals with nuts, even if nuts are not added as an ingredient.
Atopic dermatitis - About 20-40% of children with atopic dermatitis end up having some kind of food allergy, including peanut and tree nut allergies. If your child is diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, make sure you introduce nuts with caution.
Recommendations To Prevent Nut Allergy Flare-Ups
Avoid nuts - One of the most simple solutions to prevent nut allergies from flaring up is to avoid eating nuts. If you find yourself allergic to one nut, it is recommended you stay away from all nuts to be on the safer side.
Check the labels - If you have a nut allergy, definitely check the label of the food/beverage you choose thoroughly before buying it. Brands are required to mention in bold fonts if their product contains nuts.
Take care when you choose alcoholic beverages - Some alcoholic beverages may use nuts in the distillation process. When you find an alcoholic beverage with ‘botanical’ or ‘natural’ additives in it, talk to the manufacturer to know whether nuts are a part of the distillation process.
Keep your medications close to you - People with nut allergies have to carry an auto-injector with them all the time to handle allergic attacks. Such individuals should also be on anti-histamine drugs to bring down the severity of their allergic reaction.
Nut-proof the house - It is safer to not bring anything with nuts inside the house. If you have guests coming over, telling them in advance about not bringing nut-based foods and beverages helps too.
Introduce nuts in your diet early on - Studies say that when you slowly introduce nuts to babies from 6 months of age, their tolerance to the same increases, and the chances of them developing an allergy is low. Start with very low amounts and introduce one nut at a time to watch for allergic reactions. Keep your pediatrician informed if you are planning to introduce nuts.
- Nut allergy is an allergic reaction in the body to consuming nuts. About 3 million Americans are diagnosed with nut allergies, and 1% of the global population is allergic to nuts.
- Nut allergies cause histamine production in the body and lead to symptoms like skin rashes, watery and puffed up eyes, swollen tongue and lips, and coughing and wheezing.
- Extreme cases of nut allergies cause anaphylaxis. This causes the body to go into shock and leads to breathlessness and constriction of airways.
- Polymorphisms in the STAT6 gene lead to an increased risk for nut allergies.
- Children are more prone to developing nut allergies than adults. Having other kinds of food allergies also make you risky for nut allergies.
- Checking food and beverage labels carefully before buying food, nut-proofing your house, and keeping your medications close to you all help bring down the risk of nut allergy flare-ups.