Half of Those With Allergic Kids Can’t Identify Nuts
People who are diagnosed with an allergy to one kind of nut are generally advised to avoid eating all nuts because of their similar appearance and the likelihood that they will be mixed together, said Hostetler, an allergist/immunologist who treats patients at Nationwide
Children’s Hospital and Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State.
A total of 1,105 people – 649 adults and 456 children – participated in the study, which was set up for eight days outside a popular exhibit at the Columbus science museum COSI in the spring of 2010.
Participants completed questionnaires about their demographic information and any personal history of an allergy to peanuts or tree nuts. Those age 15 or older were asked to complete family histories of this food allergy and document any current or previous jobs in child-care or teaching, food preparation or serving, or in a patient-care setting.
Participants then were asked to visually identify each of 19 nuts in a display box by writing the name of the food in a corresponding area on an answer sheet.
On average, the participants correctly identified 8.4, or 44.2 percent, of the nuts. Adults did better than children, averaging 11.1 correct answers compared to 4.6 correct, respectively. And the older the participant, the better the outcome: Those age 51 or older got the most right, with an average correct number of 13 out of the 19 nuts displayed.
Peanuts were the most commonly identified item, and the shell made a significant difference: Almost 95 percent of participants correctly identified peanuts in a shell, compared to 80.5 percent who could identify a peanut outside the shell. Among tree nuts, cashews without a
shell were the most commonly recognized, and hazelnuts in the shell were the least identifiable.
Only 21 participants, or 1.9 percent of the study population, correctly identified all 19 forms of nuts.
Twenty-seven, or 2.4 percent, of participants reported that they had a peanut or tree-nut allergy. There was no statistical difference between their average number of correct answers vs. correct answers by those who did not have allergies. Though being a parent was associated with better overall performance on the survey, parents of allergic children did not perform any better than did parents of non-allergic kids.
Participants who had backgrounds in child care, food preparation or a medical field did not do significantly better than others at identifying the nuts.
“Overall, this study found that both adults and children are not reliable at visually identifying most nuts. Although adults performed better than children, they still answered only an average of 58 percent correct,” Hostetler said.
“On the one hand, you’d like to think adults would be better at this, but I look at myself before the study and realize I didn’t know all of them, either. Perhaps the more familiar people are with what peanuts and tree nuts look like, the better they’ll be at successfully avoiding them
Co-authors of the study included Sarah Hostetler and Bryan Martin of the College of Medicine, and Gary Phillips of the Center for Biostatistics, all at Ohio State.
Related: Slideshow on nut types and allergies. Click here.