The symptoms of a food allergy can range from the very mild ones that resolve on their own to life-threatening ones that require immediate medical attention. Nuts and peanuts are two common foods that cause allergies. However, many people who are allergic to nuts wonder if they will also react to peanut butter.
You can be allergic to nuts but not peanut butter because peanuts are not nuts. Peanut is a legume, while almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, and hazelnuts are tree nuts. People allergic to nuts may not react to peanut butter because these foods contain different allergens.
You must understand why being allergic to tree nuts does not mean that you are also allergic to peanut-containing foods so that you don’t needlessly restrict your diet. While nuts and peanuts are common allergy-causing foods, parents may be able prevent these allergies from developing in their children. I will explain in this article how nut allergies differ, how to recognize the symptoms of a food allergy, and how to try to prevent such allergies in babies.
Can You Eat Peanut Butter if You Have a Nut Allergy?
You can eat peanut butter if you have a nut allergy because peanut is not a true nut and does not belong to the family of nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts. Nuts and peanuts belong to different families and contain different allergens.
People who are allergic to nuts usually react to single proteins found in specific nuts. Tree nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios contain allergens that mostly belong to the following protein families:
- 2S albumins
- Bet v 1-homologues
- Thaumatin-like proteins
On the other hand, peanuts belong to the bean and lentil family. The major allergens involved in peanut allergy belong to the following protein families:
A person may be allergic to one or more proteins found in tree nuts but not react to the proteins found in peanuts. Having a nut allergy does not mean that you will also react to peanuts.
Peanut butter is mostly an unprocessed food made by grinding roasted peanuts to a paste-like consistency. If you are not allergic to peanuts, you may not react to peanut butter.
However, peanut butter may sometimes be processed in a facility that handles tree nuts. If you are allergic to one or more tree nuts, you may develop an allergic reaction to peanut butter that has come in contact with the allergens present in tree nuts.
How Can You Tell if You Are Allergic to Peanuts?
Peanut allergy can cause various symptoms, ranging from mild to severe and life-threatening. It is thus vital that you learn how to recognize the signs of an allergic reaction, especially if you suspect that you or a loved one has this condition.
You can tell that you are allergic to peanuts if you show typical allergy symptoms, such as itchiness, swelling, or shortness of breath, shortly after consuming food products that contain peanuts.
The following are the common symptoms of a peanut allergy:
- Skin reactions like itching, swelling, redness, or hives
- Itching or a tingling sensation in and around the mouth or inside the throat
- Digestive complications like stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Runny nose
- A feeling of tightness in the throat
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
While the symptoms listed above can manifest in varying degrees of severity, you MUST seek medical help if you or someone else exhibits the symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening complication of a severe allergic reaction and presents with the following symptoms:
- Swelling of the throat
- Difficulty breathing
- A severe drop in blood pressure indicating that the person is going into a shock
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Loss of consciousness
Can You Outgrow Allergies to Peanuts?
You can outgrow allergies to peanuts as studies demonstrate that 20-25% of children with this allergy do so. About 80% of those who outgrow a peanut allergy do so by the age of eight. So, there are still many people who continue to have a peanut allergy as adults.
How To Try To Prevent Food Allergies in Babies
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, parents can help prevent the development of food allergies in their children. Here’s how:
According to many studies, exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first four to six months after birth can reduce their chances of developing food allergies.
Even if you cannot breastfeed exclusively, try partial breastfeeding. Pumped or donated breast milk too has similar benefits and can help prevent your child from developing food allergies.
Eat a Varied Diet When Pregnant and Nursing
Pregnant and nursing women should eat a varied diet. You mustn’t try and avoid common allergenic foods like peanuts and tree nuts.
A varied diet ensures that you get all the nutrients to meet your and your baby’s needs while eating potentially allergenic foods can prevent food allergies in your child.
Expose Your Child to Common Food Allergens
As scary as it sounds, it is not harmful to expose your child to common allergenic foods at an early age. In fact, the more you delay exposing them to allergens, the greater are their chances of developing food allergies.
Introduce potentially allergenic foods like peanuts and tree nuts to your child when they have started eating less allergenic foods like grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Here’s how you can introduce your child to potentially allergenic foods, like, say, peanut butter:
- Choose your home, instead of a restaurant or a daycare facility, as the place to give your child their first peanut feeding.
- Offer your child a tiny quantity of peanut butter, not more than what fits on the tip of a spoon.
- Wait for 10 minutes and observe your child closely for allergic reactions.
- If there is no allergic reaction after 10 minutes, offer them the rest of the peanut butter.
- Be with your child for at least two hours and observe them for allergic reactions like rash, hives, swollen lips, face, or tongue, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, blue skin, or lethargy. Call 911 if any of these symptoms occur as your child will need to be seen immediately by health care professional.
- Get in touch with a pediatrician if your child exhibits mild symptoms like a new rash or hives around the mouth up to a week after the first feeding of peanut butter and discuss with them.
You must not automatically assume that being allergic to tree nuts also means that you will have an allergic reaction to peanuts and peanut-containing foods. Because tree nuts and peanuts belong to different plant groups, they contain different allergens.
People can also be allergic to some tree nuts and not to others.
Be safe and keep track of any minor reactions and call 911 for severe reactions.