One of the most common nut allergies is hazelnut allergy. Nut allergies in general are one of the most common food allergies in the United States, and are not to be taken lightly.
What is a nut allergy?
Nut allergies, or any type of allergy for that matter, occur when your body’s immune system thinks that harmless substances are dangerous invaders. Someone who is allergic is reacting to something called an allergen, which is not usually harmful and has no effect on people who are not allergic to that allergen. The reactions to allergens can range from mild to very severe and life threatening.
Nut allergies are quite common and they are usually discovered when children are young. Typically, a first allergic reaction to nuts occurs between 14 months and 2 years of age. In contrast to milk allergies and some other food allergies that are common to grow out of, people are unlikely to outgrow nut allergies.
Peanuts, which are actually legumes that grow underground, and tree nuts including hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, pistachios and brazil nuts can all act as allergens for some people. When you consume (or sometimes even just touch or be close to) something you are allergic to, your body begins to release histamine, which leads to all the symptoms known as allergic symptoms.
What are the most common hazelnut allergy symptoms?
Allergic symptoms usually start within an hour of contact with hazelnuts, and sometimes sooner. If symptoms occur more than 4 hours after contact, they are unlikely to represent an allergy.
Mild reactions include tingling in the mouth, face or throat, edema (swelling), feeling ill, rashes or hives, upset stomach, and tightness in the throat area.
More severe reactions include the symptoms above, plus wheezing or breathing problems, a feeling of impending disaster, and an increased heart rate and a dangerous drop in blood pressure, which can be serious and lead to unconsciousness.
The most severe allergic response is known as anaphylaxis and must be treated immediately. Some people know they are prone to severe anaphylactic reactions to hazelnuts and they carry a dose of adrenaline that can be injected into the thigh when needed. Otherwise, you must call 911 and get medical help immediately.
How are hazelnut allergies diagnosed?
If your symptoms suggest a hazelnut allergy, your doctor may perform some tests and ask you a series of questions to confirm the presence of the allergy. You’ll need to report when you ate or came into contact with hazelnuts, how soon the reaction started, how severe the symptoms were, and how long they lasted. You may also be given a skin prick test in which a small drop of hazelnut extract is placed on the skin and a quick prick allows the solution into your skin. If there is a positive reaction (redness, itchiness, welts), then your allergy is confirmed. Blood tests can also be performed to measure the amount of IgE antibody in your blood. IgE is produced in response to allergic reactions.
Can hazelnut allergy be treated?
The only effective treatment for hazelnut allergy is to prevent the reaction from happening in the first place. Always check the labels on food, as the FDA requires that the presence of any type of nut be clearly printed on the package. However, nuts can be "hidden" in processed foods and may be served unknowingly by some other well-meaning person. If your child is allergic, be sure your school, daycare, and your local parents know about your child’s hazelnut allergy. Consider a medical alert bracelet if there is the potential for severe reactions, and also if that is the case, be sure your child has quick access to an adrenaline dose if needed.
As hazelnuts can be found in many places without clear labeling, it may not always be possible to avoid contact with them. Mild reactions can usually be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines.