Tree Nut Allergy
Tree nuts comprise a variety of nut products, although not peanut which is a legume. A person may be allergic to only one type of tree nut or allergic to multiple varieties. When a person is in contact with or ingests a tree nut product the body’s immune system reacts. The proteins in the tree nut are considered harmful by the body which causes an allergic reaction. Symptoms can result within seconds or not for two hours and may be mild to severe to life threatening.
What are tree nuts?
Some of the more common varieties are cashew, pecan, walnut (both black and English), pistachio, pine nut, almonds, and Brazil nuts. These nuts are not all botanically related.
How does one know which tree nut to avoid?
When a person has a single tree nut allergy or multiple tree nut allergies many doctors recommend avoiding all tree nuts due to cross contact during processing, storage, and/or packaging. Tree nuts, like peanuts, when processed can cause nut dust. The dust permeates the air then falls onto the processing equipment and can cover other foods that are processed in the plant. If your doctor has recommended avoiding only one nut then it is important to know whether consumable tree nuts were processed in the same facility as the food you want to purchase in order to avoid cross contamination.
In the USA, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that tree nuts are listed on certain food regulated by the FDA. For more information on labeling, see our Food Allergen Labeling course and quiz. (List of tree nut names used by FALCA)
If you suspect you have food allergies, see your doctor or allergist for testing and diagnosis. Knowing what foods to avoid and carrying emergency medicine like epinephrine, if needed, can save your life if you have a serious allergy.