Approximately 1 percent of Americans have some form of peanut allergy, according to Princeton University. Symptoms can range from mild — stomach pain, diarrhea, hives and coughing, for example — to severe, including trouble breathing, facial swelling and unconsciousness.
Being allergic to peanuts doesn't necessarily mean you are allergic to all types of nuts, such as almonds, but you should not experiment with any form of nut or product containing nuts until you speak to your doctor.
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Difference Between Almonds and Peanuts
Although peanuts seem like members of the same nut family as almonds, they aren't. Peanuts are legumes, a separate plant family that includes lentils, beans, soy and peas like green split peas.
By contrast, almonds are a tree nut, as are walnuts, cashews, pecans and macadamia nuts. According to Food Allergy Research & Education, an allergy to a legume like peanuts is not a certain indicator that you will also be allergic to a tree nut, such as almonds.
What the Research Says
In a survey study published in the December 2003 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers compared the results of peanut and tree-nut allergy surveys taken in 2002 to estimates obtained five years earlier. They concluded that reported peanut allergies doubled among children from 1997 to 2002.
The same researchers repeated the survey method to compare the occurrence of peanut, tree-nut and sesame allergies in 2008 to their occurrence in surveys conducted in 1997 and 2002. Their findings, published in the June 2010 issue of the the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, indicate that greater than 1 percent of the U.S. population, including an increased number of children, report peanut, tree-nut or both allergies.
Sesame allergy is reported much less commonly. Based on these survey studies, researchers estimate that 25 to 40 percent of people who have a peanut allergy are also allergic to tree nuts.
The only way to be certain you are not allergic to almonds if you have a peanut allergy is to be tested by a board-certified allergist. Even if you test negative for an almond allergy, your doctor may still advise you to avoid eating any type of product containing tree nuts.
That's because manufacturers who use nuts often process peanuts and tree nuts on the same equipment. A small amount of peanut contained in a tree nut product may cause a severe allergic reaction.
Other Foods to Avoid
Tree nuts like almonds aren't the only foods that your allergist may tell you to steer clear of if you have a peanut allergy.
Artificial nuts, nougat, ground nut meal, mole or enchilada sauce, chili, egg rolls, some marinades and glazes, processed vegetarian meat substitutes, salad dressing, egg rolls, flavored coffee, cold cuts like mortadella, and traditional African, Asian or Hispanic dishes may all contain either peanuts, tree nuts such as almonds or both.
In addition, be aware that seeds, like sunflower seeds, and nut butters including almond butter, may be processed on equipment that is also used to process peanuts.
- Princeton University: "Princeton Researcher Digs Into the Contested Peanut-Allergy Epidemic"
- Food Allergy Research & Education: "Recognizing and Treating Reaction Symptoms"
- Food Allergy Research & Education: "Peanut Allergy"
- Food Allergy Research & Education: "Tree Nut Allergies"
- Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: "Prevalence of Peanut and Tree Nut Allergy in the United States Determined by Means of a Random Digit Dial Telephone Survey: A 5-Year Follow-up Study"
- Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: "U.S. Prevalence of Self-Reported Peanut, Tree Nut and Sesame Allergy: 11-Year Follow-up"