Cashew nut allergy more severe in children than peanut allergy

Researchers in Britain say peanut allergies may be more infamous but cashews seem to trigger more severe allergic reactions in children.

In a study of 141 children with allergies to cashews or peanuts, it was found that reactions to cashew nuts were generally more serious.

Dr. Andrew T. Clark of Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, conducted a study of 47 children with cashew allergy who were compared with 94 children with peanut allergy.

Dr. Clark found that the children with cashew reactions were eight times more likely to suffer wheezing, and almost 14 times more likely to have potentially severe cardiovascular symptoms, such as heartbeat disturbances or a drop in blood pressure.

The researchers found overall, that 10 of the children with cashew allergies had what is defined as a severe reaction, extreme difficulty breathing and/or loss of consciousness and this compared with just one child with peanut allergy.

According to Dr. Clark's team, tree nuts, such as cashews and walnuts, are known to trigger serious allergic reactions but this is the first study to show that children's allergies to cashews may be more severe than peanut allergies.

Other research indicates that cashew allergies are becoming more common, possibly because consumption is on the rise as they are now found in a range of desserts, sweets and cereals, as well as snack bars and as whole cashew nuts.

They are also found in many Asian dishes and in commercially prepared sauces and dips.

An allergen is any substance that causes an allergic reaction and a food allergy means your body's immune system mistakenly believes the food is harmful.

Food allergies can be more severe than airborne allergies because the food is ingested and then absorbed throughout the body; airborne allergies are filtered by the eyes or nose, so they don't enter the body's system so completely.

People with such an allergy are advised to avoid all tree nuts and peanuts as a precaution while some people are prescribed injectable epinephrine to self administer in an emergency.

Experts say food allergies are on the rise and the number has doubled in the past decade.

There are about 12 million Americans with food allergies, and as many as five to 8 percent of children under age 3 have food allergies.

The main high-risk foods in the developed world are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and, recently, sesame seeds.

Food allergies can be life threatening and reactions range from a few hives to a mild skin reaction to a life-threatening severe reaction.

Clark and his colleagues suggest that children with cashew allergies are at particular risk of severe reactions requiring epinephrine and advise doctors to consider this when deciding whether to prescribe the emergency treatment.

The findings appear in the current issue of the journal Allergy.

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