Living with a tree nut allergy

You might have thought the doctor was totally nutty when she told you that your child is allergic to tree nuts. Not to worry, your doctor is sane, and managing your child’s tree nut allergy can actually be pretty easy, as long as you know what to look out for.

What is a tree nut allergy?

A tree nut allergy is a condition in which the body’s immune system overreacts to the harmless proteins found in tree nuts, fighting them off with an immune system response that can, itself, be dangerous and uncomfortable.

Where else are tree nuts found?

Obviously, tree nuts can be found in nut butters, most trail mixes, and on top of sundaes, but you’d be surprised by some of the other places that tree nut proteins can show up. Some lotions, pestos, and even some cold cuts contain tree nut proteins.

Different people are allergic to different types of tree nuts, so it’s important to talk to your child’s allergist about the severity of your child’s allergies and the types of tree nuts that trigger them. If your child’s allergy is severe, it may also be necessary to read the fine print of the ingredient list.

If your child’s allergist recommends avoiding foods that may have come into contact with tree nuts during production, your family may have to end up avoiding peanuts (which are often processed in the same facilities) and many prepared baked goods and snack foods. Products that are produced in facilities that also process tree nuts often list this information on the packaging, but they are not required to. If you are unsure about a product, you can always make a call to the company for more detailed questions about their ingredients.

How is a tree nut allergy treated?

As with all allergies, the first course of treatment is avoidance. Tree nut allergies are one of the allergies most likely to cause severe reactions, especially anaphylaxis, which means that children who are diagnosed with tree nut allergies are more likely to be prescribed epinephrine, or adrenaline, which is delivered with an epinephrine auto-injector, or an EpiPen.

EpiPens should be stored at room-temperature, and should avoid extremes of heat and cold. Many families find it helpful to have several EpiPens – say, one for home, one for daycare, and one to carry around throughout the day. Very young children may not be prescribed EpiPens until they reach the weight requirements (33 pounds) for an EpiPen Jr.

Since tree nut allergies are commonly severe allergies, it’s less likely that your child’s allergist will simply prescribe an antihistamine, but if they do, it’s just as important to carry the antihistamine with your child at all times.

  • Kate Grimshaw. “Food Labelling for the Food Allergic Consumer.” Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. University of Nebraska, November 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  • “Tree Nut Allergy.”  Food Allergy Research & Education. Food Allergy Research & Education. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  • Roux, KH, Teuber SS, Sathe SK. “Tree Nut Allergens.” International Archives of Allergy and Immunology. 131(4):234-44. Web. August 2003.


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