It is important to note that food allergies occur as sensitivity to any of the eight common food allergens. Walnuts and other types of tree nuts are included in this list of allergens. A walnut allergy usually persists for a lifetime. Remember that walnuts are utilized in candy, baked products, liqueur, ice cream, pesto, toppings, trail mixes and salad dressings. Walnut oil can also trigger allergies even if it is considered as a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acid. The symptoms of walnut allergy can range from mild to life-threatening.
Possible causes of an allergic reaction
Millions of individuals all over the world experience tree nut allergies. Just like with other tree nuts, walnuts can trigger a variety of undesirable reactions. The issues start to arise once the immune system wrongly identifies the protein in walnut as a harmful substance and triggers the release of antibodies into the bloodstream.
These antibodies stimulate specific cells to generate histamine and other chemicals. The histamine triggers digestive, skin and respiratory symptoms typically linked with allergies. Only a few are able to outgrow their condition.
What are the symptoms?
The indications of allergic reactions to walnuts typically manifest no more than 4 hours after exposure. The reaction often manifest within a few minutes in most cases. Hives that manifest around the mouth that spreads to other parts of the body are the usual early signs.
Rashes and distended eyelids often follow and accompanied by nasal congestion and watery eyes. In most cases, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, asthma attacks and labored breathing can also occur.
Some individuals who simply touch walnuts can end up with an allergic response. Once the walnut proteins enter the skin via a wound, the reaction can equal or exceed if it was consumed. Remember that the allergic symptoms typically subside within 24 hours.
Some of the allergic reactions progress to anaphylaxis which is a severe and possibly life-threatening condition. It is vital to note that anaphylaxis is basically a state of shock that entails immediate treatment. The indications of anaphylaxis include the following:
- Faint, rapid pulse rate
- Cold, clammy skin
- Respiratory distress
Those who have walnut allergy must always bring along an injectable epinephrine that must be used during an anaphylactic shock. In most cases, a medical bracelet can be useful in identifying the condition.
Management of walnut allergy
It is important to note that walnuts and pecans are included in the same tree nut family. An allergic response to these tree nuts does not automatically indicate matching allergies to nuts from other families.
All types of tree nuts might be exposed to traces of walnuts during processing since they are frequently processed on the same equipment. The only way to determine the extent of an allergy is via testing.
An allergist will perform skin or blood tests or prescribe an avoidance diet to determine whether an allergic reaction is linked to walnuts. The avoidance of walnuts, pecans and any food that contains them or in traces is the only way to prevent allergic reactions.