Nut allergy is a food allergy caused by tree nuts, such as almonds, brazil, walnuts and pecan, and is often grouped alongside sensitivity to non-cereal seeds such as linseed and sesame. Peanut allergy is probably the first to come to mind when speaking of nut allergies; however, peanuts aren’t actually nuts – they are legumes. 

Symptoms of seeds, tree nuts or peanut allergy range from slight itching or swelling of the tongue, to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Here at Midland Health, we can do a blood test that involves measuring the number of certain allergen-specific antibodies in the bloodstream to find out whether you are allergic to nuts or not.

Book an appointment with one of our experienced GPs today to discuss your symptoms, confirm whether you are allergic and get the support you need to manage your allergy if the diagnosis is confirmed.

Nut Allergy Symptoms

Most symptoms caused by an allergic reaction to tree nuts, seeds or peanuts occur within minutes of being exposed to the allergen. 

The list of common mild symptoms includes:

  • Skin redness, rashes and hives
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes 
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing 
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps

In some cases, more severe allergic reactions may develop and those could have the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is considered a medical emergency. It is characterised by swelling of the face, throat and lips, low blood pressure, confusion and difficulties breathing. Due to the swelling, the airways may become blocked preventing the person from breathing, which is why it is a life-threatening condition. 

The immediate treatment of anaphylaxis is to administer an epinephrine injection using an EpiPen or a similar auto-injector. If you have a severe nut allergy you should always carry an epinephrine injector with you. The injection should counter the symptoms of anaphylaxis but you should still get checked out at the emergency room after experiencing such a serious allergic reaction. 

Nut Allergy Causes

Nut allergies are caused by an unwanted reaction to the protein contained within nuts. Those proteins are not affected by the cooking process, so even if the nut has been processed, baked or even made into a natural oil, it can still trigger a reaction. If you are allergic to tree nuts, seeds or peanuts, when you come into contact with those proteins, your body produces antibodies that connect with the proteins and produce histamine – the chemical that causes the allergic reaction. 

If you have a nut allergy, it can be triggered by exposure to nuts even in trace amounts. Therefore you should carefully avoid anything containing peanuts or nuts, including:

  • Tree nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, chestnuts, cashews, macadamias, Brazil nuts, etc.)
  • Peanuts
  • Seeds (sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc.)
  • Baked goods that may contain nuts (bread, pastry, granola bars, cookies etc)
  • Chocolate and other sweets containing nuts
  • Soups, sauces and dressings that contain nuts
  • Peanut butter and other types of nut butter
  • Nut-based essential oils
  • Almond extract
  • Nougat, marzipan and other nut pastes
  • Peanut flour
  • Any other products containing nuts, seeds or peanuts 

Nut Allergy Diagnosis

The first step to diagnosing a seed or nut allergy is to speak with your doctor about your symptoms. During your GP appointment, here at Midland Health, our physicians will take the time to discuss your food and medical history in detail. It helps to bring a food diary detailing what types of foods and in what quantities have led you to have an allergic reaction, as well as what symptoms you had and how severe they were. 

If your doctor suspects you may have a nut allergy, there are few nut allergy tests we can do confirm the diagnosis:

  • Skin prick test: A small amount of nut-based solution is introduced into your body using a needle to prick your skin. If you have a nut allergy, a mild reaction should be observed within 30 minutes.
  • Blood test: A sample of your blood is tested to see the amount of IgE antibodies in your bloodstream. 
  • Food challenge: An additional food challenge test can be done to confirm the diagnosis. You will be asked to consume a small amount of nuts to observe the reaction of your organism. This is done in a controlled clinical setting.

Sometimes your doctor may need to perform more than one of these tests to confidently confirm or rule out the seeds or nut allergy diagnosis. The team at Midland Health will be here to support and guide you through the entire process. 

Nut Allergy Treatment

A nut or seed allergy cannot be cured; however, millions of people live with the condition and the symptoms can be managed successfully. 

The most efficient way to deal with a seed, nut or peanut allergy is to avoid any products containing the specific allergens you are sensitive to. Tree nuts, seeds and peanuts should be completely removed from your diet and you should always read the labels carefully before buying a product.

You may be prescribed antihistamines to help manage your symptoms. In severe cases, you may be required to carry an epinephrine pen to manage anaphylactic shock. 

Your Midland Health GP will be able to talk you through a clear prevention and treatment plan for managing an allergy in the event of a positive test result.

FAQs

Can you all of a sudden become allergic to nuts?

Yes, it is possible to develop a nut allergy at any stage in your life, even if you have had no previous issues with nuts or seeds. However, it is a lot less common to become allergic to nuts as an adult than it is to develop a fish allergy, for example.

How common are nut allergies in the UK?

Approximately 2% of children and 1% of adults in the UK suffer from a nut allergy.

Do peanut allergy reactions happen immediately?

Yes, usually symptoms of peanut allergy will appear within minutes of exposure.

Can you get a delayed peanut allergy reaction?

It is possible to experience a delayed allergic reaction (within a few hours) but it is more likely to occur immediately after coming in contact with the allergen.

Pricing

  • Food Allergy Blood Test (covers the 9 main food allergens inlcudes Peanut and Sesame) - £227*
  • Nuts and Seeds Allergy Profile Blood Test - £323*
  • Phlebotomy Appointment - £35
  • Standard GP Consultation (30 min) - £120
  • Express GP Consultation (15 min) - £60

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