Facts about Dealing with an Almond Allergy
Tree nuts cause the largest concern for allergy sufferers, but reactions to an almond allergy seems to be far less frequent than other tree nuts. Because it is possible to develop an allergy at any time in life, it is good to be able to identify the symptoms and reactions.
The almond, while classified as a tree nut, is actually not a nut at all. Rather, it is the seed of a drupe, which is simply a fruit with a hard, stony center. Almonds grow upon small trees that leaf, flower and then form smallish fruit which matures in the fall. The outer covering of the fruit is leathery and tough; unlike other members of the same Prunus family like plums and peaches which are fleshy and edible. Only the inner seed, the almond, is edible.
Food allergies occur when the human immune system mistakenly identifies the food you have eaten as an enemy. The immune system works diligently within our bodies, fighting off bacteria, viruses and minute organisms that are capable of causing illnesses. Most of the time, the system works flawlessly. Occasionally, however, it focuses on a particular item and treats it as though it presents a danger to the body. When this happens, the body makes antibodies, which stimulate the production of mast cells in the immune system. These mast cells release chemicals such as histamine into the bloodstream. The additional histamine rushes to the areas that are normally affected by air borne invaders; eyes, nose, throat, respiratory system and the digestive system. As a result, symptoms like a runny nose, tingling of the lips, tongue or mouth, hives, throat swelling, wheezing or nausea can occur. The symptoms may be felt almost immediately, or there could be delayed reaction that happens a few hours after ingesting the food. In severe cases, several symptoms could appear at once; affecting the breathing, blood vessels and heart of the individual. These reactions are called anaphylaxis.
Tree nuts are thought to be a common allergy that affects millions of people. Almond allergy sufferers are far fewer, and reactions not nearly as dangerous in most cases. This is likely due to the fact that the almond is actually a seed and not a nut. Whether the allergy is slight or severe, it is one that must be regarded with the utmost of concern. It is important to know that having an allergy to almonds could mean that there are other nuts that could be dangerous to eat as well, although this is not always the case.
Hidden allergens can create serious hazards for those with an almond allergy. When foods are prepared in a commercial environment, the possibility exists that contamination between foods can occur. Foods that contain tree nuts are often prepared in the same areas in which those without nuts are prepared and, while slight, the opportunity of cross reactivity does exist. These types of foods should be fully avoided to prevent any chance of a reaction.
Becoming accustomed to reading food labels will provide a means of avoiding foods that could possibly have nuts. Manufacturers are required to note whether or not nuts are in the product or if the product has been prepared in an environment where contamination could have occurred. This notation is generally found near the list of ingredients on the food wrapper. There are comprehensive lists supplied by organizations specializing in allergies that detail safe and unsafe foods that can take the guesswork out of deciding what to eat. With any type of allergy, being prepared for an emergency is strongly recommended; an epinephrine pen can be carried on the individual for a possible reaction.
Dealing with allergies such as almonds can take some education, but becoming more informed and prepared will provide huge benefits to your health and to your very life.