Living with a nut allergy
A person with a nut allergy can have a serious reaction to tiny amounts of a nut product. This can result in anaphylaxis, a medical emergency.
However, most allergic reactions to nuts are mild, causing hives (nettle rash), eczema and vomiting.
A GP can arrange testing if a nut allergy is suspected.
An NHS allergy clinic will use blood tests or skin prick tests to help make a diagnosis.
A food challenge test under medically controlled conditions may also be recommended to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of any reaction.
Peanut allergy is the most common nut allergy in children and adults, and the charity Allergy UK says the number of people with peanut allergies has doubled over a five year period.
Some children grow out of their nut allergy, but for most, it is a lifelong condition.
If you have a nut allergy, strictly avoiding nuts, including peanuts and tree nuts such as cashews and walnuts, and food containing nuts is the only way to prevent a reaction. However, it is not always easy to avoid these foods since many unsuspecting products contain nuts.
Look out for 'free from' labels in supermarkets.
Always check the ingredients on the label before you use a product, even if you have previously used it without problems. Manufacturers occasionally change recipes, and a trigger food may be added to the new recipe. Also, keep in mind that many ready-prepared foods, including cakes, sweets, chocolate and curries and other take-away dishes can be contaminated with peanuts if products containing peanuts are prepared in the same place or by the same manufacturer. Always be prepared for this possibility and the risk of a reaction.
One way to ensure food is nut free is to cook your own, in your own nut-free kitchen.
Some advance planning is needed for parties and eating out. Either take safe food with you, or confirm in advance with the chef that nut free dishes can be provided.
If you use an adrenaline injector pen for a nut allergy, or other rescue medication, make sure you keep it with you at all times. Make sure the people you are with know about your condition, and what to do in an emergency. Consider wearing medical jewellery to alert medical staff and first-aiders to your allergy.
Food containing nuts
Allergy UK lists examples of peanut and tree nut products, and foods that may contain them:
- Blended oils, unrefined/gourmet peanut, arachis and groundnut oils.
- Biscuits with almonds, coconut biscuits, macaroons or those with nut oils.
- Peanut butter, chestnut puree, chocolate and hazelnut spread, praline spread, sweet mincemeat.
- Christmas cake, fruit cake, stollen, marzipan containing cakes, carrot cake, passion cake, cakes bought in delicatessens, cakes containing vegetable oil.
- Breakfast cereals, including crunchy nut cornflakes, fruit & fibre, muesli, shreddies and fruitful.
- Pesto sauce, Waldorf salad.
- Nut loaf, some vegetarian burgers and sausages.
- Nut yoghurt, nut ice-creams, cakes and puddings containing nuts.
- Nut snacks, nougat, nut brittle, halva, Snickers, Topic, Fruit & Nut, Bounty, Toblerone, Liquorice Allsorts, pralines, florentines.
- Some Chinese and Thai dishes, such as satay
- Cosmetic creams and shampoos containing nut extracts.