Almonds and other tree nuts are great sources of nutrients, but for some people they can also cause allergic reactions that range from a mild rash to severe breathing difficulties. Such reactions typically occur within minutes to 2 hours after eating. Though outgrowing allergies is certainly possible, at least one study suggests that the odds favor persistence when it comes to tree nut allergies. If you are allergic to almonds, the more you know about your symptoms, the better you'll be able to partner with your physician and discuss your care.
Skin and Mouth
Symptoms involving the skin are the most typical reactions to food allergy that come to medical attention. These include hives or other types of itchy rashes and typically appear within an hour of exposure. Symptoms affecting the mouth are sometimes referred to as the oral allergy syndrome. The mouth and/or throat may feel itchy or tingly, and the tongue may also swell. These symptoms usually appear 5 to 10 minutes after eating an almond and typically occur in people who are also allergic to birch tree pollen. Such symptoms typically do not progress beyond the mouth. However, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, about 9 percent of patients may also have systemic symptoms, and about 2 percent may also experience anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal.
Respiratory Tract and Gastrointestinal Systems
Respiratory tract symptoms typically include a stuffy, runny and/or itchy nose and may also involve sneezing. In children, tree nut allergies are also often associated with asthma, which can involve coughing and shortness of breath. Gastrointestinal symptoms typically include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. These symptoms usually occur soon after eating tree nuts.
Anaphylaxis is a serious reaction that can be associated with allergy to tree nuts and peanuts. It can affect a person's breathing as well as circulation. Symptoms typically occur within a few minutes to a few hours of exposure and may include throat tightness, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, low blood pressure, dizziness and loss of consciousness. Without immediate medical treatment, anaphylaxis can be fatal.
Warnings and Precautions
If you are allergic to almonds, consider avoiding all tree nuts because of potential cross-reactivity. Read food labels carefully, keeping in mind that manufacturers of nut-flavored alcoholic beverages are not required to include nuts in ingredient lists.
Anaphylaxis requires immediate emergency care. According to guidelines published in the January 2011 issue of "Nutrition Research," when confronted with an anaphylactic reaction, a person should try to remove the trigger if possible but also call 911. If using an epinephrine autoinjector, or EpiPen, administer epinephrine via the thigh muscle, following the manufacturer's instructions, prior to visiting the ER.
- Nutrients: Health Benefits of Nut Consumption
- Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: The Natural History of Tree Nut Allergy
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Almond Allergens: Molecular Characterization, Detection, and Clinical Relevance
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: Oral Allergy Syndrome
- Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: Oral Allergy Syndrome: a Clinical, Diagnostic, and Therapeutic Challenge
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: Hives (Uticaria)
- American Family Physician: Manifestations of Food Allergy: Evaluation and Management
- Clinical Pediatrics: Tree Nut Allergy, Egg Allergy, and Asthma in Children
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: Anaphylaxis