Should you eat almonds if you have a nut allergy?

So, the peanut and nut allergy may not extend to almonds, blood tests show very low percentages for both almonds and coconut. I can eat coconut no problem, I love the stuff! Praise be for Coconut milk and Thai curries.

But I’ve always avoided almonds under the blanket “You’re allergic to all nuts!” banner from the doctor.

Accidental almond consumption

I know I have eaten almonds by mistake a few times. Once in a cereal bar which changed its recipe, I was nibbling a Seeds of Change bar when my Mum wrenched it out of my hand in horror as she read the ingredients list idly while sitting at the table – it’s something an allergy Mum does without thinking. Even though I am quite grown up now she still reads ingredients’ labels when we are together – clearly she still needs to because I hadn’t noticed!

This bar had a NEW flash on the side, new recipe, lovely but now they included nibbed almonds. It just goes to prove you should ALWAYS read labels, even on your favourite safe products; recipes can and do change, often. But I was fine. I then showed her the box, which now contained only three of the six in the original package – clearly these almonds didn’t seem to be doing me any harm. So why had I been avoiding them all these years?

I ate some more almond recently in a cake sample that was sent to me labeled no nuts, dairy, gluten etc. I should have checked, but assumed it would allergen free. The cake didn’t cause me any adverse reaction and I only noticed the ‘almonds’ in the ingredient’s list AFTER finishing a slice. So are almonds nuts?

What are almonds?

The almond of prunus dulcis to give it its latin name is a species of tree native to the Middle East and South Asia. The almond has corrugated shell (endocarp) surrounding the seed of the tree and the actual almond fruit is called a drupe.

Almond has an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed inside and it’s not classified as a true nut.

Introducing almond milk

This was a little scary but I bought some almond milk and began by Rubbing some almond milk on my hand, wrist and arm – there was no reaction. I then rubbed some all over my lips – no reaction. I did however notice a slight rash on my neck after doing this last test so I chickened out of actually drinking the milk. But it certainly wasn’t conclusive. More tests to follow but I might just nip to my local A&E and conduct experiments there just in case.

Next test, drink some…

Almonds may cause allergy or intolerance and can cross-react with peach allergies and tree nut allergies. Symptoms range from local symptoms (e.g., oral allergy syndrome, contact urticaria) to systemic symptoms including anaphylaxis (e.g., urticaria, angioedema, gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms).

Are you allergic to almond? Just almond or other nuts too? Has anyone else avoided almonds for years only to discover they can eat them?

And what are the chances of cross contamination with other nuts due to storage and processing together in the same factories or warehouses?

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.

Comments

  1. I’m like you — I’ve avoided all nuts my entire life due to allergies to a few nuts (peanuts, walnuts, pine nuts). I’ve also accidentally ingested almonds a few times and nothing happened. I also don’t test as being positive to almonds. BUT, it seems risky enough that I won’t actually eat them. I’ve lived my whole life without them, so it doesn’t seem worth it to take the risk to me…. even if nothing would happen.

    • Hi Amanda, you’re right, it does seem risky and my doctor did caution me about trying to intoduce it into my diet. Cross contamination is a BIG risk, I once ate a cake with an almond on top which turned out to be the SHAPE of an almond but made out of PEANUT! What the? Needless to say I was quite ill after that but not quite anaphylactic as I spat it out in time but it just goes to show, you can’t be too careful. I have worked a bit with the distribution companies for these raw products and if you get a factory it is unlikely to be dedicated to JUST almonds so how do you maintain no cross contamination? I guess if you could find a source of almonds that were guaranteed to be safe with no traces it would bew OK but where do you get that? Almonds are also more expensive than other nuts which is why my cake with hidden peanut incident occured in the first place. I’m pretty sure peopel wouldn’t do that now awareness of nut allergies is better but I’m kind of with you and got scared with the almond reintroduction but it just goes to show – the test do work and maybe the path of more caution is the best one to follow.

  2. We have changed our advice in our paediatric allergy clinic over the last few years. It has become pretty obvious that there are people who are allergic to one nut eg peanut who happily eat other nuts (usually hazelnut, as in Nutella!).

    In a recent review article in the journal of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, the authors (including Gideon Lack, from Kings college London) concluded that children with a confirmed single nut allergy could safely introduce other nuts, and that this reduced risk-taking behaviour, reducing psychosocial impact of nut avoidance and improving quality of life.

    I would recommend testing first to see if there is any evidence of allergy to other nuts. If you are allergic to just one nut, I am happy for families to try one or more of the nuts that we have tested in a cautious, step by step way, as you describe.

    As stated above, you would still have to accept a risk of contamination. Also, if you did not regularly eat the nut you might become allergic in the future!

    • Fantastic advice, thanks Adrian. I react to most other nuts, peanuts being the worst so perhaps the advice would be err on side of caution. My doctor was wary of me doing this but as tests came back so low and I had reported accidental exposure last year he suggested I be very careful. I may buy a carton and nip to hospital cafe to try it. It worked last time I just wussed out at the drinking it stage. Other nuts will react even on exposure to my skin. I’m thinking marzipan at Christmas… almond milk (to bring in variety to my milk substitutes). Thanks again for your comment. I hope this helps other people with nuts who face this quandry. I do however eat coconut without any problems, despite, weirdly, its test results coming up higher than other things I AM allergic to. Just shows tests are not always reliable. In most cases they are a very useful tool but sometimes you get a false positive. I’ve been eating coconut all my life – the test was just for doctors info I think. The body is a complex machine.

  3. my son is allergic to peanuts and nuts including almonds. so we avoid like all the other nuts.
    he’s not allergic to walnut apparently but i am not testing the theory! :-\

  4. Richard James Clark says:

    I am intolerant to nuts not allergic so I don’t suffer with the issues others do including yourself Ruth.

    However Almonds, cashews, walnuts and anything related to tree or peanuts apart from Coconut (which can be considered a fruit, seed or a nut) if eaten gives me a lot of digestive problems, feeling of swelling of the throat (same what I get with dairy and soya-which i avoid like the plague).

    Other symptoms showcase in reaction is via my skin flaking, itchiness, redness and relates to many skin outbreaks, blemishes or other issues if applied as an oil or within a lotion or solution as well.

    Though if I have cherry kernal oil or plum kernal oil eating or topically I am fine, but peach and apricot has the same issues as Almond though I would have thought the same reaction overall.

    The environment Almonds are processed in doesn’t help and alot of companies in the UK struggle with cross-contamination so its tough for them, plus I have had the same reaction if I have Almonds fresh from the tree too, so although I would love to eat them I have to avoid them.

    Though I would like to talk to more experts within the field and see what makes people react to some nuts more then others.

    • Hey never down play your food intolerances. they can be just as deblititating to live, if not life threatening. And you’re right, it’s a very complex thing. I’m allergic to nuts but can eat coconut fine – in fact I love it! I get problems with tomato and celery which are mixed up with hay fever and my latex allergy but though not life threatening, my skin reactiosn also are very painful, unsightly, burning and itchy and last a good 2-3 days before starting to abate. When that’s happening regularlyl it’s exhausting. I find eating out particularly hard. Now I have a plan to see if I can get an online meeting going with an expert so you can all ask these burning questions.

  5. I’m allergic to all tree nuts including almonds however peanuts are fine. Be careful experimenting yourself. I had a severe anaphylactic reaction last year (ended up in ICU) after eating a kale chip sample at Whole Foods. It wasn’t labeled as containing nuts so why would I suspect a veggie chip??? Well that one chip was dipped in cashew butter to make the seasonings stick and that one chip almost killed me. I’ve had minor reactions to almonds, walnuts, pistachios, & even cashews since I was 9. But this was the first time I went anaphylactic. It only takes once. Why risk it? Mine was an accidental ingestion; I would never take the chance to test myself. (Side note: Whole Foods denied all responsibility so I was also stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills).

    • It is a big risk, it seems all nuts can be contaminated with other nuts due their processing and storage. Nut allergics may be wise not to take the risk.

    • I’m fine with almonds, peanut oil (but not peanuts :/), and possibily walnuts (had a few drinks which contained it). I also ingested a kale chip recently and my allergies went off the charts. Apparently cashews we’re an ingredient within the kale chip that is barely mentioned on the packages. So now i’m just staying away from all things kale!

    • So I’ve always been allergic to peanuts and therefore I thought I was allergic to all nuts but it wasn’t until this year, 2014, that I realize I can eat almonds! this makes me wonder what other nuts that I thought I was allergic to that I’m actually not? But I’m too scared to try to test it out!

      • I think it’s a big risk, since almonds can become cross contaminated with peanut. My tests come back negative for almond also and I know I have eaten by mistake with no reaction, however I was the same with chestnut and a few weekends I had a near anaphylactic reaction after eating cake with chestnut flour, I had eaten this cake all week with no reaction, then one day I did react. There isn’t any real way of knowing what’s caused a reaction or why the body reacts differently but I was doing exercise at the time and I think that speeds up my reactions. Not great. Was seconds from using adrenaline but the only thing not reacting was my breathing, I could breathe fine, but I was dizzy, confused, covered in hives, under my arms and groin was swelling up, my stomach felt like it would burst, I felt really really nauseous but wasn’t actually sick, just dry retching. Horrible, horrible. Prob should have used it but had lots of antihistamines and was OK after a few hours, if exhausted.

  6. I’ve had a severe ‘nut’ allergy all my life and when I was 18 had a near death experience when I ate a chocolate that wasnt properly labeled and had a peanut in it which caused me to go into Anaphylatic shock and accoring to the Doctor I swelled up like the Michelin man. Luckily I survived and have been ok since.

    The only other reaction I had was when I drank some red wine but I only got skin hives with that and the Docs said they use ‘nuts’ in cheap wine to give it that ‘Oaky’ flavour…so avoid cheap red wine 😉

    As for Almonds I’m not sure, I am 40 now and eat Chinese, Indian and Thai and have never had a reaction, I am very careful though. I had some Tikka Masala which have ground Alomnds in and I was fine, no reaction. My Doctor thinks I have ‘outgrown’ my allergy which is possible.

    • Hi Nige, It could be something in the wine though I’ve never heard of nuts in wine??? Milk and eggs yes, but not nuts. Must investigate that. I do know however that alcohol can speed up or exacerbate a reaction. If I were you I would want to get tested to make sure your nut allergy HAS gone away, it would be unusual for that to happen but amazing if it has. Then you wouldn’t need to worry. /thanks for sharing. I’m pretty sure I am OK with almonds even though I am allergic to nuts.

  7. Great article, found this after eating some sponge cake that had crushed almonds in it. Took fright when I found out but then realised I had no reaction to it. I know after a few seconds..

    I was always dubious about Almonds but had my suspicions years ago when I used to eat Battenburg cake and thought it was fine apart from the smell! Was too scared to test it again and find out.

    I think this morning proves I am OK with almonds. All other nuts are a big no no. Hazelnut, Walnuts, Cashews etc etc.. I should really go the docs and get tested.

    Anyway, now I know an almond is not a nut but a fruit!

    • Yup me too. I would recommend caution to anyone as you can be allergic to almonds, but I’m fine with them. Still a bit wary but so far no reactions.

  8. I have avoided almonds my entire life and I’m 20. I have had allergic reactions to other tree nuts as well as peanuts. Coconut doesn’t bother me though. I had never even tried almonds for fear of a reaction. One day I accidently ate them in ice cream and discovered now that i am not allergic to almonds!

    • Morning Ulyssa, I don’t think I am too but beware, I have had reactions to chestnuts recently, having thought I was fine with them. In fact I’ve had chestnuts in a pie, chestnut flour in a cake and then one day just BAM! Suddenly, mix chestnut flour with exercise and beer and you’ve got a nasty concoction and had a mild reactions with hives, nausea etc. Not nice but not life threatening so Chestnuts are off my list now and I’m still very wary of almonds, not least because of the risk of cross contamination. Do be careful as one time you might be OK and the next you’ve now sensitised and could have a worse reaction…

  9. My husband reported that 3 months ago he had a mild allergic reaction to a bite of marizpan. (Itching in mouth, redness, discomfort) He is over 50 and did not have any known food allergies to that date. He has worked his whole life in food service and has eaten just about everything there is!

    I eat vegan as much as possible and have replaced cow milk with either almond or soy in my diet. I keep a quart of cows milk in the fridge for his coffee.

    A few weeks ago we ran out of cows milk. My husband used the almond milk without realizing what it was. For an entire week. Including using it for cooking.

    I stopped him when i saw it, worried about his allergy.

    My question – is it possible to have an almond allergy but tolerate almond milk?

    Neither of us have experience in this area

    Thank you

    • Interesting, I’d say he would also be likely to react to almond milk, unless the processing in some way reduces the protein present in the milk. I’ve no idea how they make it. Unless his mouth itching was caused by something else? Detective work begins…

  10. I’m only allergic to almonds whenever i eat them my lips gets plumpy or big and my throat itches like hell but theres this one time i buy a nieva or dove product that is a on lotion shower which contains almond oil i apply it to my arm and leg for the first time yesterday no reaction but when i woke up the other day still no reaction but when the time passed by my shoulder and arm started to itch so i said I’ll just take a bath after i did i apply the lotion again and it began to itch from my left and right arm and my left and right leg is there any possibility that i am allergic to anything that contains almond stuff

  11. I too have an allergy to all nuts and peanuts. My parents have been extremely careful around all food that may contain nuts, and I understand that they are trying to protect me. But my whole family always wanted to know if I was actually allergic to Almonds because I did accidently eat them when I was younger, but as I grew older my peanut and nut allergy grew harsher, so we have no idea if almonds grew with my allergy too. I was wondering if you were allergic to almonds, would you react to it if you take a bath in it? Recently I was given a Bathbomb from my Secret Santa, who doesn’t know if almonds are actually peanuts or not. So the bath bomb contains almonds and I haven’t actually used it, worried about if I’m going to have an allergic reation. I’m hoping you or someone else could give me a little advise please! 🙂

    • Hi Luna, I’m not sure. I have just been given some hand cream and it contains almonds and so far I didn’t react. I would be very careful though. Don’t leap right in. Can you rub a bit on your hand or neck before using it fully? You could also ask your doctor to redo your allergy tests and test for almond. My almond test comes back negative but I’m still wary.

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