Hazelnut Allergy: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Tree nuts belong to the group of eight most common food allergens. While people can develop allergies to all the types of tree nuts, including hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews and others, allergies to hazelnuts are one of the most commonly occurring. The symptoms of hazelnut allergies can range from mild to severe or even life-threatening.
Hazelnuts are also known under the names like filbert nuts and cobnuts. They can be found in nearly any grocery store as by themselves, as in mixed nut snacks, in desserts like praline or in various alcoholic liqueurs. Besides, many popular chocolate nut spreads (for example, Nutella) also contain hazelnuts.
What Are the Symptoms of a Hazelnut Allergy?
Allergy to hazelnuts may affect different parts of the body and cause symptoms such as: eczema or hives; allergic conjunctivitis (eye allergy); nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea; runny nose, coughing or wheezing; angioedema (swelling of the lips, tongue or the whole face), as well as anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction, which requires immediate treatment involving an epinephrine injection and a follow-up medical care.
It may take up to two hours for the symptoms of an allergic reaction to hazelnut to occur.
How Is Birch Pollen Related to Hazelnuts?
Since the allergens found in the pollen from birch trees and hazelnuts are related, your body may react to both. This usually happens in people with oral allergy syndrome (OAS), a type of food allergy in which sensitivity to a certain kind of pollen also applies to the foods related to this pollen.
Hazelnut-induced oral allergy syndrome usually causes mild symptoms that include itching, tingling or swelling of the lips, tongue or throat. You can reduce these symptoms using some over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl. After you take the medication, make sure to be monitored by a specialist for the next few hours, in case more serious symptoms occur.
Sometimes, oral allergy syndrome may cause more severe reactions leading to skin rashes, delayed digestive symptoms (e.g. abdominal pain and diarrhea), as well as anaphylaxis (in rare cases). Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that affects the whole body. Such a reaction requires an immediate injection of epinephrine, as well as a follow-up medical care.
How to Treat an Allergy to Hazelnuts?
Unfortunately, hazelnut allergy cannot be cured, but you can control your condition by avoiding the allergen.
If you develop any symptoms after eating or touching hazelnuts or hazelnut-containing foods, experts recommend that you arrange a visit to a doctor. The doctor may want you to perform allergy testing to see how severe your allergy is and determine if you are allergic to other tree nuts.
In many cases, people with oral allergy syndrome can easily reduce their symptoms using antihistamines. However, if you have a more serious allergy, you may be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector that you should always carry with you, in case of an emergency. One of the most commonly used auto-injectors is sold under the brand name EpiPen.
The Bottom Line
Since tree nuts are one of the most common food allergens, the national food allergy labeling laws require food manufacturers to list nuts on the ingredient labels of their products using plain English (For instance, “Contains: Nuts (hazelnuts)”. Thus, people allergic to nuts can avoid them in packaged foods.
However, it may be difficult to avoid hazelnuts when eating out in a restaurant or at someone’s home. Therefore, experts recommend that you always inform the restaurant staff about your allergy and make sure that your meal is totally free of nuts.