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Tree Nut Allergy in Children: Care Instructions

Overview

When your child has a tree nut allergy and eats nuts, your child's body reacts as if these nuts are trying to cause harm. It fights back by setting off an allergic reaction. A mild reaction may include a few raised, red, itchy patches of skin (called hives). A severe reaction may cause hives all over, swelling in the throat, trouble breathing, belly pain, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, or fainting. This is called anaphylaxis (say "ANN-uh-fuh-LAK-suss"). It can be deadly.

A good way to prevent your child's allergic reaction is to avoid the foods that cause it. Tree nuts include almonds, pecans, cashews, walnuts, and other nuts.

Some of the foods that might contain tree nuts include salads, Asian dishes, baking mixes, and sauces. Flours made from tree nuts are often used in vegan and gluten-free dishes. An allergy doctor or a dietitian may be able to help you understand which foods will be okay and what to avoid. Learn what to do if your child has a reaction.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

During a mild reaction

  • Give your child a non-drowsy antihistamine, such as loratadine (Claritin), as your doctor recommends. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

During a severe reaction

  • Give your child an epinephrine shot. Older children can give themselves the shot if they have learned how. Keep it with your child at all times. Make sure it has not expired.
  • Call for emergency help. A severe reaction is an emergency.

To prevent future reactions

  • Avoid the foods that cause problems. And try not to use utensils or cookware that may have been in contact with food your child is allergic to.
  • Teach your child's teachers and caregivers what to do if your child has a severe reaction to food that your child is allergic to.
  • Have your child wear medical alert jewellery that lists all allergies. You can buy this at most drugstores.

When should you call for help?

Give an epinephrine shot if:

  • You think your child is having a severe allergic reaction.

After you give an epinephrine shot, call 911, even if your child feels better.

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over your child's body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or your child may feel very light-headed or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
    • Severe belly pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. (A baby with pain or nausea may be really fussy and not stop crying.)
  • Your child has been given an epinephrine shot, even if your child feels better.

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

  • Your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Mild belly pain or nausea.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.