In a nut allergy, the immune system overreacts when you eat nuts. Normally, the immune system helps keep you healthy by defending against harmful germs. But in a nut allergy, the immune system thinks something in the nuts is harmful. So it fights back with an allergic reaction. Sometimes this causes serious or dangerous symptoms.
The best way to treat a nut allergy is to avoid any food that might have nuts. And make sure that you know what to do if you accidentally eat something with nuts in it.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
Read food labels carefully. Check the ingredient list. Look for phrases like “may contain nuts” and “produced on equipment that also processes nuts.”
Take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin), to treat mild symptoms. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Your doctor may prescribe a shot of epinephrine to carry with you in case you have a severe reaction. Learn how to give yourself the shot, and keep it with you at all times. Make sure it has not expired.
Wear medical alert jewelry that lists your nut allergy. You can buy this at most drugstores.
Tips for eating out
When you eat out, tell waiters about your allergy. Ask them about ingredients. If they are not sure, ask to speak to kitchen staff.
Be aware of something called cross-contamination. For example, a food server may scoop out some ice cream with nuts. Make sure the same scoop is not used for your ice cream without nuts.
If you travel to another country, learn the words for the nuts you are allergic to. Then you will be able to ask about them in restaurants and read food labels. Call airlines, tour operators, and restaurants before you go. Explain your allergy, and ask for safe meals. And discuss your travel plans with your doctor.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
You have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over your body.
Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
Passing out (losing consciousness). Or you may feel very lightheaded or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
You have symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
Belly pain, nausea, or vomiting.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
Care instructions adapted under license by Kaiser Permanente. This care instruction is for use with your licensed healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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