Nut Allergy Tips

Allergies to tree nuts and peanuts are on the rise. Dealing with these allergies in children seems simple since the advent of allergy warning labels. But fresh foods and restaurant foods mean some unexpected sources can keep you guessing when it comes to nut allergies. Live by our eight tips to avoid nuts in food and keep your child healthy.

1. Beware Surprising Sources: Tree nuts can be found in cereals, crackers, cookies, candy, chocolates, energy bars, flavored coffee, frozen desserts, marinades, barbecue sauces and some cold cuts, like mortadella. If you also have an allergic adult in the family, beware of nut-flavored alcohols, which aren’t required to have allergy warning labels. Even if you’re only allergic to peanuts, you should also avoid tree nuts since nuts and peanuts often are processed on the same equipment.

2. Check Sauces and Pastes: Several sauces and pastes are made with nuts. Avoid pesto, marzipan (almond paste), gianduja (a chocolate-nut mixture) and any chocolate nut butter spreads like Nutella.

3. Take Note of Extracts: Several flavoring extracts are found in foods you wouldn’t expect to contain nuts. Black walnut hull extract (flavoring), natural nut extract, nut distillates/alcoholic extracts, nut oils (e.g., walnut oil, almond oil) and walnut hull extract (flavoring) are among the offenders.

4. Avoid These Not True Nuts: Beechnut, ginkgo, shea nut, butternut, hickory, chinquapin, lychee nut, pili nut and coconut aren’t botanical nuts, but the risk of an allergic reaction to these “nuts” is unknown. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology states: “Coconut is not a botanical nut; it is classified as a fruit, even though the Food and Drug Administration recognizes coconut as a tree nut. While allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. If you are allergic to tree nuts, talk to your allergist before adding coconut to your diet.”

5. Check Your Beauty Products: Tree nut oils can even be found in shampoos and lotions. If your child is allergic, the oils can be absorbed through the skin and trigger an anaphylactic reaction. Art supplies are another surprising source of nut oils. Peanut oil is common in art supplies, so be sure to talk to your child’s school about possible allergens in school art supplies.

6. Choose Your Restaurant Wisely: Ethnic restaurants including Chinese, African, Indian, Thai and Vietnamese are high risk due to heavy use of nuts and nut oils and the risk of cross-contamination. Ice cream parlors and bakeries are also considered high-risk for people with tree nut allergy due to the common use of nuts and the possibility of cross-contamination, even if you order a tree-nut-free item. Buffets are another danger zone, since other restaurant-goers can mix up serving spoons or otherwise contaminate nut-free dishes with nut oils.

7. Safe “Nuts”:  Nutmeg, water chestnuts and butternut squash are all items with “nut” in the name that contain no nut proteins and, thus, aren’t allergens for those with nut allergies.

8. Check Those Labels: Even if the ingredients list doesn’t contain nuts or nut products, check the label for these warnings—”may contain nuts,” “produced on shared equipment with nuts or peanuts” or “produced in a facility that also processes nuts”. Avoid products with any of these nut-related warnings.

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