While many foods may cause mild allergic reactions, tree nuts are capable of causing life-threatening allergy attacks.  Peanuts, in particular, are capable of producing severe reactions, although they aren’t actually a true nut.  Peanuts, along with beans and lentils, are legumes, but they have a chemical structure that is similar to tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.) so they can elicit a similar allergic reaction.

Nuts are harmless enough.  The problem is your body’s perception of those nuts.  With an allergic reaction, the body mistakes the proteins in nuts for “invading enemies” and releases chemicals to fight them off.  Those chemicals lead to allergic reactions that are often severe.

Unlike other food allergies such as egg and milk allergies which people tend to “age out” of, peanut and tree nut allergies are often life-long companions.

Signs of nut allergy:

Nut and peanut allergies often flare up directly after exposure to nuts. In some cases, they may lead to life-threatening anaphylaxis requiring emergency treatment.

If you experience even a mild reaction to nuts or peanuts, consult a doctor, as severe reactions could result down the line.

Symptoms often occur directly after exposure to nuts and may include:

  • Skin rash
  • Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
  • Digestive symptoms (diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting)
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is often characterized by constricted airways, difficulty breathing, and shock.

Medical studies have recently shown sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) to be capable of safely reducing the effects of peanut allergies.1

As with allergy shots, SLIT uses an allergy serum to help patients build up immunity to certain allergens.  But instead of delivering this serum through injections, SLIT relies on under-the-tongue or sublingual drops that are absorbed into the bloodstream through special cells in the mouth.  The serum is designed to desensitize patients to allergy-causing foods, so they can eat more of the foods they enjoy.


1 Kim EH, Bird JA, Kulius M, Laubach S, Pons L, Shreffler W, Steele P, Kamilaris J, Vickery B, Burks AW. “Sublingual immunotherapy for peanut allergy: clinical and immunologic evidence of desensitization.” Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology Mar 2011.

1Click here for more research on sublingual immunotherapy for food allergies.