How to care for a child with nut allergy.

Nut allergy in children: Causes and treatment

It is quite common for many adults to develop nut allergies at a very young age. Allergy to nuts is ranked amongst the most severe forms of allergies that can lead to alarming reactions. At times, the severity of the allergy can be so intense and deadly that it can even be fatal, if treatments are not administered on time.

Hence, it’s important for parents to be aware of why such allergies occur, how they are diagnosed and treated, and what things to keep in mind for the safety of your child. In general, parents can easily read signs of peanut allergy in a baby. So, to be on your guard, here is a closer look at what nut allergy is all about.

Nut allergy and its causes and symptoms

If a child has nut allergy, his body will react severely to eating or even smelling nuts. A kid may be allergic to a particular type of nut or he may be allergic to multiple types. It is advisable to avoid all types of nuts if a kid has nut allergy.

Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and pine nuts can cause allergic reactions. The symptoms of nut allergy develop very quickly as soon as the kid either consumes or comes in contact with nuts. Symptoms of nut allergy can vary in children, and range from mild irritation like a runny nose to severe and even life-threatening ones marked by swollen throats, shocks, and shortness in breathing. Listed below are the different symptoms that nut or peanut allergy causes:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach ache
  • Continuous sneezing
  • Swollen lips
  • Irritation and itching around the mouth and on the face
  • Trouble in breathing
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Fainting

The main cause of nut allergy is the body's immune system's inability to tolerate nut protein. Different components of the immune system might be responsible for reacting towards nuts. In simple words, nut allergies happen because of intolerance to peanuts or any other types of nuts. The protein present in nuts triggers the release of histamine to counter the effect of the protein. Histamine is not actually harmful for the body, but in this case, the body considers it to be so, and reacts to its release.

Nut allergy can also cause problems in the respiratory tract, GI system, cardiovascular system, and the skin. In severe cases, it may lead to a reactive condition called anaphylaxis – a condition where the airways swell and blood pressure drops. The patient may be unable to breathe and this can cause a life-threatening condition if not attended immediately.

Peanuts are the most common cause of allergies in children and they are not nuts. They are legumes. But the protein found in peanuts is identical to tree nuts. It is the reason why many kids who are allergic to peanuts also get allergic symptoms from tree nuts like almonds, pecan nuts, hazelnuts, and cashew nuts. Unlike other food allergies, like milk allergy, soy allergy and egg allergy, which can be overcome as kids grow up, peanut allergy is likely to linger for the whole life.

It can also be helpful to note that kids with nut allergy can usually have coconuts without any allergic reaction. But if it occurs in rare cases, you should consult a doctor straight away.

Diagnosis and treatment of nut allergy in kids

The process of treatment of nut allergy in kids starts with its diagnosis. A peanut allergy test will involve the following:

  • Testing of skin and blood: A skin test will help determine whether the kid is truly allergic to the peanut or any other type of nut. A little bit of liquid extract from the nut will be introduced to a scratched location of the skin to see if any itchy, red or bumpy spot appears. A blood test can confirm the same by checking the immune system's response to certain foods, by finding allergy type antibodies in the bloodstream.
  • Maintaining your kid’s food dairy: Take note of your kid’s food habits, symptoms caused by any food, and any medication that he or she takes, if asked for. If the kid is reactive to any particular food type, do take note.
  • Diet: When the situation is such that a certain kind of nut or any other food type is causing an allergic reaction in your kid, the treatment process starts with an elimination diet. Suspected foods like peanuts or any other type of foods are taken out from the diet for a week or two, and brought back one at a time, with gaps in between. This helps to establish any link between the allergy and any particular food. This method is not used when the kid is prone to severe reactions.

Though there is no specific baby peanut allergy treatment, studies are being conducted, and till then, eliminating nuts and nutty foods are the only solution. Still, peanuts are common in many foods and if, by chance, you face an emergency situation, always keep epinephrine injections with you. Also, carefully learn when and how to use it.

Never assume that a certain food type will not contain nuts until you have prepared it yourself. Never ignore the label of any food item, and if in doubt, don't go for it. Be prepared for any allergic situation at all times. Here are some peanut allergy foods to avoid:

  • Baked goods
  • Frozen desserts and ice creams
  • Energy bars
  • Many kinds of cereals and granolas
  • Bread with grains
  • Candies

It is very important to know how to identify tree nut allergy in your children as it is one of the most severe kinds of allergies. So, watch out for possible symptoms and also teach kids about what foods they should avoid.