Do nut allergies run in families? My older brother has had a nut allergy since he was a toddler. I am perfectly fine but I am worried about my toddler who has just turned 2. Are there any early warning signs that he may have a nut allergy or do I just have to wait until he has a full blown reaction? I know with my brother the reaction has got worse with every episode. Also, there’s so much conflicting information about whether you should eat nuts during pregnancy or not – what is the best advice as we are considering having another child very soon.
Allergies do tend to run in families. If you have a parent or sibling with asthma, eczema, hayfever or a food allergy you do have a higher likelihood of developing an allergy yourself; it may not necessarily be the same allergy as other members of the family. The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. walnuts, almonds), soy, wheat and fish. Food allergies do appear most commonly in babies and children but an allergy can develop at any age, even to a food consumed previously with no ill effects.
Food allergies occur when your immune system reacts to harmless proteins in food, a reaction is triggered which releases a chemical called histamine which produces the classic allergy symptoms.
The signs of an allergy to nuts include hives (red itchy bumps on the skin, usually fairly widespread), wheezing, vomiting, tightness in the throat which can make breathing and swallowing difficult. The allergic reaction usually occurs almost immediately and severity can vary between each exposure, although commonly severity does increase with each exposure. The most severe type of reaction is an ‘anaphylactic reaction’ which can be fatal and requires an immediate injection with an adrenalin pen.. If your son displays any signs of an allergy, even mild signs such as an itchy mouth, sneezing or watery eyes please seek medical help. If your son does not have any other allergies it is fine to introduce peanuts into his diet. Current advice is for nuts to be introduced not earlier than the age of 6 months in a ground form such as peanut butter or cakes, but not until age 5 for whole nuts (due to the risk of choking). If your son already has an allergy, for example asthma or eczema, you should consult with your GP before introducing nuts into his diet.
Current advice is that peanuts and foods containing peanuts are safe to consume during pregnancy. It was previously thought that consuming peanuts during pregnancy increased the chances of an allergy developing in the unborn child. No clear evidence has been found to demonstrate this; in fact eating nuts during pregnancy has now been found to lessen the risk. Obviously if the mother has a nut allergy then nuts should be avoided, even during pregnancy.