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Friday, April 19, 2024

What is a nut allergy?

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Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, pistachios, hazelnuts, sesame seeds… We call them all dried fruits because we consume them dried, but, in reality, they come from very different plant species. What these foods do have in common is a group of proteins that are capable of acting as allergens and triggering an immunological hypersensitivity reaction in the body. In other words, nuts contain certain proteins that can cause allergies in people who are especially sensitive to them when they eat the nut that contains them. Now you may have a question is nutmeg a nut?

Who is affected?

The allergy to nuts is one of the most frequent also in our country. According to the Spanish Association of People with Food and Latex Allergy (AEPNAA), it affects 1% of the population. It is not as common in infants as allergy to cow’s milk or eggs, but it is one of the most common food allergies in Spain from 3 or 4 years old, according to the Spanish Society of Clinical Immunology, Allergology and Pediatric Asthma (SEICAP).

In addition, according to the Products study -presented at the 2018 SEICAP congress-, walnuts are the nuts to which Spanish children are most frequently allergic. However, the prevalence varies depending on age and geographical area. Normally, there is often cross-reactivity with other nuts. This means that if, for example, you have a nut allergy, you may also have almonds and even other nuts. It can also happen that, if you are allergic to these, you also have pollens and/or latex, which can share substances with allergenic capacity.

Nut allergy symptoms

When the person suffering from this type of allergy eats a nut or a food that contains them, her body begins to release chemicals such as histamine. This can cause symptoms such as:

  • itchy mouth
  • Lip swelling.
  • Sensation of tightness in the throat.
  • Swelling, itching and watery eyes.
  • Rhinitis.
  • Hives and hives on the body.
  • Difficulty breathing and/or wheezing (with “whistles”).
  • Cough or sneeze.
  • Digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach pain.

These symptoms can appear at the time the nuts are ingested or up to two hours later and, as in other types of allergies, they can differ from person to person or change depending on the circumstance.

In the worst cases, anaphylaxis can occur, which is a generalized allergic reaction that affects two or more systems of the body and whose symptoms vary from one patient to another, and are usually sudden and can cause death. . For its part, it is called anaphylactic shock when there is also an affectation of the cardiovascular system with a drop in blood pressure.

A diet without nuts

Given that, generally, allergy to nuts does not disappear with age and, at the moment, there is no treatment or specific medication to treat it, it is advisable to eliminate the fruit or nuts that cause the allergic reaction from the diet. If the species causing the reaction has not been identified with certainty, it is best to avoid them all.

In addition, it is also necessary to exclude foods that include nuts or may contain traces among their ingredients. As identifying them is not an easy task, it is necessary to carefully read food labels, especially those of cookies, cereals, pastries, pasta, ice cream, chocolates, sauces, nougat, porridge, etc.

We must also take into account that some nuts are called differently in other countries. For example, the peanut is also known as peanut. Therefore, a thorough review of labels is essential for people allergic to these foods.

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