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Travel Health & Safety Blog

Peanut or Treenut Allergy?: What You Should Look For

I read a sign recently: “Having food allergies doesn’t mean your body is broken. It means your body is highly intelligent!” Studies have been performed since 1966 proving an increase of allergies and asthma have been found in gifted children, 44% of those with an IQ over 160 suffered from allergies and asthma compared to 20% of age-matched peers.

ARE YOU NUTS FOR NUTS?

On a recent flight from Dallas to Atlanta, I heard the flight attendant announce there was a passenger with a peanut allergy. They asked us not to open or eat anything with peanuts on the plane, if at all possible. She also stated that the person did not have an EpiPen with them. That last comment was a red flag, people with known allergies should carry the proper precautionary tools, an EpiPen is one of the best tools to assist during an anaphylactic shock. Many airlines carry EpiPens onboard, but it is not a legal requirement. 

Peanuts are legumes, not nuts. 25 to 40 percent of individuals who are allergic to peanuts also react to one tree nut. The FDA recognises coconut as a tree nut. Most of us consider coconut a fruit. Tree nut allergies are among the eight most common food allergies affecting children and adults. Tree nuts are often used as garnishes in salads, in Asian dishes (peanut sauces), ice cream toppings, baking mixes, & desserts. Tree nut oil can be found in lotions, hair care products and soaps. Some alcoholic beverages may contain nuts or nut flavouring added in the distillation process.

Overall nuts are good for you: nuts can lower serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) concentrations, they have a very low glycemic index due to their unsaturated fat and protein content and relatively low carbohydrate content. Yes - nuts have protein, incomplete protein because nuts lack some of the essential amino acids whereas meat is called complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids. While nuts can be high-fat sources of protein, they contain mostly healthy unsaturated fat; they also provide numerous essential vitamins and minerals.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SYMPTOMS OF A NUT ALLERGY?

  • Itchy tongue, mouth, lips, throat, skin, urticaria (hives)
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain
  • Nasal congestion, runny nose,
  • In severe cases of allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) difficulty breathing with bronchial constriction
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • In rare cases, severe anaphylaxis may lead to death if not treated immediately

If you experience any of these signs and symptoms you might want to consider seeing an allergist, it could be life-saving. Your allergist will take a medical history including family medical history if you can obtain it. A skin prick test, patch test or blood test may be performed looking for the presence of allergen-specific immunoglobulin E, an antibody that binds to allergens and triggers the release of chemicals that cause symptoms.

IF YOU HAVE A NUT ALLERGY WHAT IS THE MANAGEMENT AND TREATMENT?

Strictly avoiding the allergen or specific nut (not always easy to do). Read the nutritional labels looking for the warning stating that the product may have been manufactured in a plant where nuts are processed as cross-contamination may be a concern. Carry an Epinephrine pen if your doctor suggests it. An antihistamine like diphenhydramine hydrochloride (Benadryl) and nasal sprays (Nasacort) are suitable for mild reactions causing itchy skin and runny noses. Take your medication at the first sign of a reaction. Go to the ER as needed as soon as possible. An ER has many other medicines delivered through an IV to combat your allergy symptoms. Wear medical ID jeweller,y if necessary, to identify your allergy. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne performed a study using an oral treatment for peanut allergies which is still effective four years after it was administered. Children were given a probiotic with a peanut protein daily for 18 months. When tested one month later 80% could tolerate peanuts without any allergic symptoms & after four years 70% of them were still able to eat peanuts without suffering any side effects.

There is hope for those of you who have nut allergies!