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Nut and Peanut Allergy


What Are Peanut and Tree Nut Allergies?

Peanuts are among the most common allergy-causing foods and are less likely to be outgrown than allergies to other foods.   Nut allergies are more common among older children and adults.  Peanuts are actually not a true nut, but a legume (in the same family as peas and lentils). When someone with a peanut allergy is exposed to peanuts, the immune system mistakenly believes that proteins (or allergens) in the peanut are harmful to the body.  The immune system produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) that cause allergy cells in the body (called mast cells) to release chemicals into the bloodstream, one of which is histamine.  The histamine then acts on a person's eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract, and causes the symptoms of the allergic reaction.

Peanut reactions can be very severe, even with extremely small amounts of exposure.  This might be because the immune system recognises peanut proteins easier than other food proteins.  The allergens in peanuts are similar in structure to allergens in tree nuts. This may explain why almost half the people who are allergic to peanuts are also allergic to tree nuts, such as almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamias, pistachios, pecans, and cashews.  People who are allergic to one tree nut are often allergic to at least one or two other tree nuts. As with peanuts, tree nut reactions can be very severe, even with small exposures. Research has shown that peanuts are the one culprit of fatal food allergy reactions, followed by tree nuts.


Living With a Peanut or Tre Nut Allergy

To help reduce the contact with nut allergens and the possibility of severe reactions (anaphylaxis) in someone with a peanut or tree nut allergy:

  • Consider making your entire home nut-free.
  • If you do allow nuts in your home, watch for cross-contamination that can happen with utensils and cookware. For example, make sure the knife you use to make peanut butter sandwiches is not used in preparing food for a child with a nut allergy, and that nut breads are not toasted in the same toaster as other breads.
  • Don't serve cooked foods you didn't make yourself, or anything with an unknown list of ingredients.
  • Tell everyone who handles the food your child eats, from waiter and waitresses to the cafeteria staff at school, about the allergy.  If the manager or owner of a restaurant is uncomfortable about your request for peanut-free or nut-free food preparation, don't eat there.
  • Consider making your child's school lunches, as well as snacks and treats to take to parties, play dates, sleepovers, school functions, and other outings.
  • Talk to the daycare supervisor or school principal before your child attends. Work together to create a food allergy emergency action plan.
  • Keep epinephrine accessible at all times – not in the glove compartment of your car, but with you, because seconds count during an anaphylaxis episode.

With a little preparation, and prevention, you can ensure that your child's allergy doesn't get in the way of a happy, healthy, everyday life.

Cocoon childcare understands allergies.  We keep a detailed list of all children in our care who suffer from food/non food allergies.  We ask that all parents keep us informed of any changes to their child’s allergies.  The most important thing to remember about food allergies in children is to never diagnose a food allergy yourself.  You may have a good idea what is causing the problem, but the common symptoms of food allergies can be caused by many different things and you can end up cutting some very important nutrients out of your child’s diet.  The one exception is if you think your child has had an anaphylactic reaction or problem breathing after eating a food, contact your emergency services straight away.

If you suspect your child has a food allergy, do contact your GP and get referred to a qualified allergist.  The allergist will take a detailed medical history and will ask about your child’s symptoms and reactions.  Based on this, the allergist may decide to carry out skin pick tests and blood tests.  In the skin prick tests, a tiny amount of the allergen (the food causing the allergy) is placed in the skin using a needle.  If your child has an allergy to this food their skin will become red and raised within about 15 minutes.  It is important to have any food allergies diagnosed by your doctor.