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   Tree Nut Allergy

The tree nut includes nuts such as cashews, almonds, pecans and walnuts among others.  The peanut is actually a legume.  However, some children do have an allergy to both peanuts and tree nuts. There is a 30 to 60% chance of a child with a peanut allergy to develop a tree nut allergy according to research by Scott H. Sicherer, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and a researcher in the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute.  Your child will need to be tested in order to determine the exact nature of their allergy.

The cashew is in the cashew botanical family along with mango and pistachio. There has been some research to show a relationship between a cashew allergy and a severe reaction to poison ivy. In fact a teenage friend of ours was told to be mindful of a potential cashew allergy when he went to the ER with a horrible reaction to poison ivy.

An almond is actually in the plum family along with apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, plum and the prune plum, yet it is considered a tree nut by most allergists. It is definitely possible to be allergic to almond, yet be able to tolerate peaches or the other foods in the botanical family. My son fits into this category.

The pecan is in the walnut botanical family along with the butternut, hickory nut and black and English walnut.

Many people wonder if coconut, nutmeg, water chestnuts and shea nuts are nuts. The coconut is in the palm family, and while it is possible to be allergic to coconut…it doesn’t cross react with tree nuts. Our son tolerates coconut without a problem. Yet coconut has been determined to be a tree nut by the FDA for purposes of labeling! Food that includes coconut will likely have a label stating that the product includes Tree Nuts.

Nutmeg and water chestnuts are not considered nuts either, and there’s no need to stay away from them if you have a nut allergy. The nuts of Shea tree yield a vegetable fat known as shea butter. The trees grow in Africa and provide income for women in the region who pound the nuts. They would be considered a nut, and we stay away from them.

When my son, Morgan, was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy, our allergist suggested that we keep him away from all tree nuts and shellfish.  She said that many children do have reactions to all of these foods.  We waited for another two years after the initial peanut allergy diagnoses before redoing an allergy skin prick test.  The second allergy test included a retest for the peanut allergy, along with a test of each tree nut separately.  Morgan tested a 4+ on cashews, and had no allergy to pecans.  We decided that with the possibility of cross-contamination, we would opt for no nuts in Morgan’s diet.

Yet some allergists will suggest that if your child is not allergic to pecans, for example, that it would be safe to eat these in their raw form only. The chance that one nut could be substituted for another nut in the manufacturing process makes eating nuts in this fashion more risky. Eating a safe nut in its raw state would have less chance of cross contamination. We still aren’t willing to assume this risk, and therefore have removed all nuts from our son’s diet.

The only “cure” currently for the tree nut allergy is to stay away from all nuts and nut products.  Read labels of all the foods that your child eats, and all foods in your house.  Read labels each time you purchase a product because manufacturing processes change frequently.

Read all labels to ensure no consumption of Tree nuts!

The Food Allergy Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) was passed in 2004, requiring: labels to be marked such that a 7 year old could read and understand the ingredients, all allergens are declared even if they are in the spices or flavorings, and curtail the current widespread use of the ‘may contain statements.’ This act went into effect January 1, 2006.

For more information on this important law, please see:

It is safest to avoid all kinds of nuts even if your child is allergic to just one.  The processing of nuts in foods lends itself to cross-contamination easily and isn’t worth the risk.

Stay away from all your ‘standard’ tree nuts, which include almonds, cashews, pecans, and walnuts. 

Any product that says ‘nuts’ must be avoided.  These would include macadamia nuts to name just one.  There are many kinds of nuts, so read labels carefully.  Remember pistachios are a nut!

In 2006, the FDA classified coconut as a nut; however the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) does not recognize it as such. If coconut is in a product, the product may state that it contains tree nuts. This is confusing, especially if your child can tolerate coconut but not other tree nuts!

Sometimes cashews are used to make butter (cashew butter), oils or pastes.  Stay away from all of these.

Pesto sauce usually includes pine nuts – be careful of homemade recipes where nuts can be used and yet not recognized in sauces, etc.

Your allergist should be able to provide you with a complete listing of ingredients that may indicate nut protein.  There are always new products being created with newly processed ingredient names.  If you don’t know the exact nature of the ingredient, don’t eat it!

Tree nuts can show up in products that aren’t ingested, but used in lotions and shampoos.  Read the labels on these products also.  Contact allergies can cause severe reactions also.

When your nut-allergic child goes to school, having things in writing is a must! We have a 9x12 sign is perfect for your child’s classroom to let everyone know that the classroom is a Nut-Free Zone! It can also be used in the cafeteria on the lunch table. Each year we place signs in my son’s classroom and in the hallway to ensure that every visitor, parent and child knows to keep nuts away! 

No Nuts

The sign is laminated on both sides to ensure durability.

Purchase a sign for just $8.95 plus shipping.

Buy Now!

Chad the Allergic Chipmunk

Check out “Chad the Allergic Chipmunk: A Children’s Story of Nut Allergies.” “Chad” helps children learn about nut allergies and how to recognize an allergic reaction. Beautiful illustrations and a simple text make this book a must-have for your child, friends, grandparents and classrooms.


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