Nut Allergies: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

In a nut allergy, the immune system overreacts when you eat nuts. Normally, the immune system helps keep you healthy by defending against harmful germs. But in a nut allergy, the immune system thinks something in the nuts is harmful. So it fights back with an allergic reaction. Sometimes this causes serious or dangerous symptoms.

The best way to treat a nut allergy is to avoid any food that might have nuts. And make sure that you know what to do if you accidentally eat something with nuts in it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Read food labels carefully. Check the ingredient list. Look for phrases like "may contain nuts" and "produced on equipment that also processes nuts."
  • Take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin), to treat mild symptoms. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Mild symptoms include sneezing or an itchy or runny nose; an itchy mouth; a few hives or mild itching; and mild nausea or stomach discomfort.
  • Your doctor may prescribe a shot of epinephrine to carry with you in case you have a severe reaction. Learn how to give yourself the shot, and keep it with you at all times. Make sure it has not expired.
  • Wear medical alert jewellery that lists your nut allergy.

Tips for eating out

  • When you eat out, tell waiters about your allergy. Ask them about ingredients. If they are not sure, ask to speak to kitchen staff.
  • Be aware of something called cross-contamination. For example, a food server may scoop out some ice cream with nuts. Make sure the same scoop is not used for your ice cream without nuts.
  • If you travel to another country, learn the words for the nuts you are allergic to. Then you will be able to ask about them in restaurants and read food labels. Call airlines, tour operators, and restaurants before you go. Explain your allergy, and ask for safe meals. And discuss your travel plans with your doctor.

When should you call for help?

Give an epinephrine shot if:

  • You think you are having a severe allergic reaction.
  • You have symptoms in more than one body area, such as mild nausea and an itchy mouth.

After giving an epinephrine shot call 911, even if you feel better.

Call 911 if:

  • You have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over your body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or you may feel very light-headed or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
  • You have been given an epinephrine shot, even if you feel better.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Belly pain, nausea, or vomiting.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: February 12, 2016