What is Not a Nut?
While coconut is considered a tree nut when it comes to food labeling purposes in the United States, it is not, strictly speaking, a nut. Rather, it is the fruit of a palm tree.
Most people with tree nut allergies are able to eat coconut. However, it is possible to be allergic to coconut. Speak to your allergist about whether coconut is safe in your diet.
People often refer to peanuts as nuts, but peanuts are in fact legumes. While many people are allergic to both tree nuts and peanuts, it’s possible to be allergic to one and not the other. Nutmeg and water chestnuts are not nuts.
Risks with Peanuts
Those who are allergic to tree nuts are often advised not to eat peanuts because of the risk of cross-contamination during the manufacturing process, with nuts and peanuts on the same equipment. If you have a tree nut allergy, talk to your allergist about whether you should also be avoiding peanuts.
While tree nuts and peanuts are not relatives, studies show that one-third to half of people with peanut allergy also have a nut allergy.
Link to Pollen Allergies
For some people, eating nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts can set off a tingly, itchy sensation in the mouth, lips or throat. This may not be a true allergy, but in fact, something called oral allergy syndrome (OAS).
OAS is a reaction to foods including fruit, vegetables, nuts, spices, legumes and seeds that actually stems from pollen allergies. The structure of some of the proteins in the pollens of birch and alder trees, grass and ragweed are so similar to the proteins in related foods that some people’s immune systems can’t tell the difference. If the birch tree gives you sneezing and congestion, for instance, it’s possible that an apple, carrot or hazelnut might make your mouth itch.
It can be difficult to figure out if you’re having an actual allergic reaction to a food, which can cause anaphylaxis (the serious form of reaction) or if it is OAS. While symptoms for the latter condition are usually milder, Allergic Living strongly suggests a visit to an allergist if you are reacting to nuts of any kind.
Next Page: Why is Tree Nut Allergy on the Rise?