Nut allergies—peanut allergies in particular—have some notoriety in the world of food allergies, because nuts can cause some of the most severe immune reactions in those who are allergic. Many people with peanut allergies need to be extremely careful to avoid nuts, because any amount of exposure could threaten anaphylaxis. Often, those who are allergic to peanuts will also avoid all tree nuts, though recent research suggests that this step is not always needed, because a peanut allergy does not necessarily indicate allergies to other nuts. Let’s take a closer look at what research says about nut allergies so that you know more about managing this increasingly common food allergy in yourself or a loved one.
Early peanut exposure can prevent nut allergies
Children are not born with peanut allergies, though some infants might have a higher risk for peanut and other nut allergies. Infants who have experienced eczema, egg allergies, and other food allergies may be more likely to develop an allergy to peanuts. It used to be thought that the safest route for these children was avoiding peanuts altogether, but it turns out that earlier exposure to peanuts may be the answer. Giving children food containing peanuts as you introduce other solid foods can reduce the likelihood of allergies with severe reactions, but it is always essential to discuss this method with your pediatrician first. If your child already has severe food allergies, an allergy test may be recommended prior to experimenting with new foods.
One nut allergy doesn’t mean universal nut allergies
If preventing peanut allergies is not a possibility for your child or you already suffer from a peanut allergy, you do not have to live a life without eating nuts. Tree nut allergies and peanut allergies are two different conditions. They may both be present in the same individual, but an allergy to one type of nut does not rule out all nuts from your diet. If you have a known nut allergy, you may be able to safely experiment with eating other nuts to see if you can incorporate them into your diet. Allergists are more commonly prescribing a therapy dedicated to this practice called oral food challenges. During these sessions, individuals will eat various types of foods to note any observable immune reaction. If there is an adverse reaction, the allergist can provide immediate intervention, as the test takes place in a controlled environment.
Allergy testing is not definitive
You may wonder why oral food challenges are necessary when allergy testing is available, but it’s important to recognize that simple skin prick allergy tests do not always reveal the whole story. Allergy tests are only definitive when they show a negative result. With positive results, they may only indicate that a certain group of foods is the source of the reaction. Further testing is needed to narrow down specific allergens. In addition, some positive reactions can be false positives caused by allergies to innate testing materials and other uncontrollable factors in skin prick testing.
When you visit an allergist, you may leave with lingering questions about your allergy test results and new dietary restrictions based on your known allergies. The medical team at MeMD can provide clarification with online web exams available around the clock. Many patients may forget to ask questions in the doctor’s office or seek clarification of a diagnosis, but our providers are always ready to provide the information you need when it comes to common medical concerns.