Nut Allergy Symptoms

Nut allergies are incredibly common and actually near the top of the list of common food allergies. These allergies occur if the body thinks that nuts are harmful invaders and therefore stimulates the immune system to respond by eliminating the allergen from the body. To protect a person’s body, the immune system will produce IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies, which release specific chemicals (including histamine) that affect bodily systems, particularly the skin, cardiovascular system, and gastrointestinal tract, causing allergy symptoms.

Nut allergy usually refers to an allergy to tree nuts, but will also include reactions to peanuts. Both tree nuts and peanuts commonly cause allergies, particularly in children. As tree nuts and peanuts have similar protein structures, the allergic reaction to each item is nearly identical despite peanuts being legumes.

Nut Allergy Symptoms

An allergic reaction may range from mild to very severe and in some cases, can be life-threatening. In many cases, symptoms will start quickly, within minutes to an hour of contacting a nut. If the reaction doesn’t take place for over 4 hours after the contact, it is probably not an allergy.

1. Mild Symptoms

  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Skin rash
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Feeling sick
  • Swollen face
  • Throat tightness
  • Vomiting and/or nausea
  • Tingling of tongue and lips
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hives or nettle rash
  • Diarrhea and stomach pain

2. Severe Symptoms

  1. The above symptoms (of mild reactions)
  2. Wheezing
  3. Trouble breathing
  4. Swollen throat
  5. Asthma-like attack
  6. Shock or loss of consciousness
  7. Feeling of impending doom
  8. Blood vessels dilating, which in turn leads to decrease in blood pressure, increased heart rate, and skin redness.

Few people have an allergic reaction by simply breathing small particles of peanuts or nuts, although small quantities of the protein can lead to a severe reaction. At most of the time, when someone does have a reaction to airborne particles, it will be within an enclosed area with lots of peanuts, which are being cracked out of their shells.

It is possible to outgrow other food allergies eventually (including wheat, soy, egg, and milk), but the majority of people with tree nut or peanut allergies will have the allergy for life.

When to See a Doctor

You should visit your doctor if you think you might have a peanut allergy, particularly if you experienced a severe allergic reaction. You should always seek emergency treatment when you have a severe reaction or experience anaphylaxis. Always contact emergency services if you have severe trouble breathing, severe dizziness or loss of consciousness.

What to Do If You Have Nut Allergy Symptoms

1. For Mild Symptoms

If you have a mild allergic reaction to nuts, have antihistamine tablets on hand and take one right away. You should be able to find them at your local pharmacy. These antihistamines will prevent histamine from acting and this is the chemical that gets released during allergic reactions. Most of the time, the medication will take between 15 and 30 minutes to begin working.

If the reaction worsens, seek medical treatment immediately.

2. For Severe Symptoms

If you have a severe or anaphylactic reaction, you should do the following:

  • Use your epinephrine/adrenaline injection, if you have one.
  • ŸCall 911 immediately and try to keep someone with you constantly.
  • If you also have asthma, take your inhaler.
  • ŸWhile you are in the hospital or on your way there, you may be given oxygen for assisting breathing, antihistamines to stop the allergic reaction, and/or steroids to help reduce inflammation.
  • ŸCertain people need intensive treatment in the case of severe reactions.

While mild symptoms can last an hour, severe ones may be longer and you will stay in the hospital until you recover fully.

Possible Future Treatments for Nut Allergy Symptoms

There is a treatment known as immunotherapy/desensitization in which you are administered small quantities of allergens that are gradually increased. This helps to build up your tolerance to the allergen. While it is somewhat successful for insect poison and pollen allergies, it is not frequently used for nut allergies due to the anaphylaxis risk. However, there are studies investigating the method.

How to Prevent Nut Allergy Symptoms

You may hardly find any special medication for peanut or tree nut allergies. Instead, the best method of prevention and treatment is to avoid the source. Therefore, you will need to avoid the nut and also the nut mixed into other foods.

  • Tree nuts. The following are some common tree nuts that you might need to avoid eating: walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, hickory nuts, hazelnuts, filberts, chestnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, and almonds.
  • Food with nuts. The following chart shows some of the foods that are the highest-risk for those with nut allergies:

Baked Goods

Cookies, pie crusts, pastries, etc.


Particularly chocolate candy, marzipan, and nougat

Other Sweets

Hot chocolate, pudding, frozen dessert, and ice cream

Chili and Soups

Peanut butter or peanuts are occasionally used to thicken dishes

Foreign Dishes

Nuts are particularly popular in Asian and African cooking (such as Indian and Thai) as well as Mediterranean and Mexican dishes


May include marinades, glazes, mole sauce, gravy, pesto, and hot sauce


This is a type of Italian ham that sometimes contains pistachios

Other Foods

Chex mix, granola, cereals, honey, high-energy bars, grain breads, burgers without meat, salad dressing, and salads

Tips for Preventing Nut Allergy Symptoms

  • Check labels. Manufacturers will occasionally change their recipes, so always check the label for trigger foods.
  • Keep cross-contact in mind. Sometimes foods without tree nuts or peanuts will become contaminated when prepared with the same equipment or in the same location as other products.
  • Check other products. Nuts aren’t exclusively found in the kitchen; they may also be in pet food, shampoos, and lotions.
  • Never eat foods you are not sure about.

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