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Did you know that a peanut allergy isn't always a nut allergy? A University of Michigan Medical School study explains why

by , 29 March 2017
Did you know that a peanut allergy isn't always a nut allergy? A University of Michigan Medical School study explains why
So you're allergic to peanuts...

You already know that your common allergy can lead to serious reactions, such as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. But do you know that having an allergy to this one type of nut may not mean that you're allergic to all tree nuts?

Yes, you heard me right - just because peanuts trigger your allergies doesn't mean that you're doomed to a lifelong avoidance of almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts!

This finding goes according to a new study led by Dr Christopher Couch, an allergist based in Phoenix, Arizona in the USA who was an allergy/immunology fellow at the University of Michigan Medical School at the time of the study. Read on for the full scoop.

The difference between peanuts and tree nuts is that peanuts are legumes, not nuts!

In their study, the researchers found that almost none of the people who were allergic to peanuts were allergic to tree nuts as well. The reason for this? It’s because peanuts aren’t actually nuts – they’re legumes.
 
The researchers explained that even if a person has a positive blood prick or skin test to a tree nut, it doesn’t automatically mean that they’re allergic – especially not if they’ve never even eaten that tree nut before.

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Researchers confirm that an oral food challenge is more accurate than blood prick and skin tests to determine nut allergies

So how do you tell if you’re allergic to tree nuts? Researchers say an oral food challenge is a sure-fire way. More accurate than blood prick and skin tests, an oral food challenge involves eating increasingly larger amounts of a food suspected to cause an allergic reaction over a couple of hours while an allergist observes your body’s reaction.
 
“The findings show that there is a wider margin of error than previously thought with blood prick and skin tests,” wrote Dr Couch. “A positive skin test and/or blood test to a nut does not always indicate a true allergy,” he added.
 
What happened in the study backs this up – despite showing a sensitivity to additional tree nuts in blood prick and skin tests, over 50% of people who tested had no reaction whatsoever during the oral food challenge!
 
“Skin tests and blood tests to foods are not absolute, and we can see false positives. An oral food test is the most objective test we have to determine if a patient is allergic, or if they are tolerant to a particular food,” Dr Couch concluded.

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