Tree nuts and peanuts are distinctly different. An allergy to one does not guarantee an allergy to the other. Peanuts are considered legumes and are not, in fact, nuts. Their chemical makeup is different. A tree nut is technically a hard-shelled fruit. Additionally, there are many types of tree nuts, and a single tree nut allergy does not mean you’ll be allergic to all the other tree nuts, although the tree nut allergies do tend to come in clusters. Cashews are the safest of the tree nuts registering the least allergic responses.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to see an allergist – in fact, it’s advisable. Many children who have both peanut and tree nut allergies combined. Some studies suggest increased risk for developing a tree nut allergy if a peanut allergy is confirmed.
“Many allergists suggest that a child with a peanut allergy avoid tree nuts partly because they might have or develop a tree nut allergy,” said Dr. Scot Sicherer, author of Understanding and Managing Your Child’s Food Allergies.
“Also,” he added, “it can be confusing to avoid certain foods containing peanuts or tree nuts because many people get these confused and do not recognize differences. Furthermore, products that use a tree nut might also contain peanut and vice versa – that is, cross-contact or inclusion of an avoided food might occur in products, such as cakes, cookies, and brownies.”
Severity of an allergy will vary from person to person but reactions are largely the same, no matter the trigger. The allergic response may increase in severity with each future exposure. Milder reactions might feel like a dry throat. For severe allergies, an anaphylactic response may occur, and this is life-threatening.
The best approach to treating either allergy is an exclusion diet. In this type of treatment, any products containing nuts or peanuts are removed from the diet, or even removed from the house.