Tree nut allergies are one of the eight most common food allergies in the United States, often affecting both children and adults. Tree nuts can cause a severe, potentially fatal, allergic reaction and should be treated immediately. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) reports that approximately one in 90 people in the United States, or 1.1% have either a tree nut and/or a peanut allergy.
There’s often confusion between tree nuts and peanuts. Tree nuts include, but are not limited to, pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts and brazil nuts. Peanuts are actually legumes, not nuts. However between 25 and 40 percent of individuals who are allergic to peanuts also react to at least one tree nut.
An allergic reaction to tree nuts may result in the following symptoms: hives, itching, nasal congestion, nausea, shortness of breath, swelling, vomiting, and anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis may include all of the symptoms mentioned as well as difficulty breathing and reduced blood pressure.
As with most food allergies, the best way to avoid triggering an allergic reaction is to avoid eating the offending item. Allergists generally advise people who are allergic to a specific tree nut to avoid all nuts including peanuts because there is a potential risk of cross-contact or cross-contamination. The federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires tree nuts and peanuts to be listed on the food label. Therefore, reading food labels and ingredient lists is essential to understanding which products contain tree nuts.
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