That’s Nuts! Surprising Places Nuts Are Hiding In Your Home
If you or someone in your family is allergic to nuts, you’re no doubt very careful with dietary options. Still, sometimes nuts lurk where you don’t expect them. Could nuts be hiding in your home without your knowledge? More importantly, do you know where to look for them?
Peanut allergies are among the most common causes of anaphylaxis-related fatality, so it’s crucial to keep peanuts away from someone who is allergic. Unfortunately, allergen exposure doesn’t just happen when an allergic person eats peanuts. It can happen during food preparation and and when utensils are shared. What’s more, peanuts, peanut oil, and peanut shells are often found in non-food products, from stuffed toys, to landscaping elements, to sunscreen lotion, to fireplace logs. Peanut-related ingredients can even be found in pet food and dental cleaners.
Tree nuts are major allergens as well. People who are allergic to tree nuts can experience anaphylaxis from contact with nuts like walnuts, cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts. In addition to the nuts themselves, tree nut elements can be found in soaps, lotions, beauty products, shampoo, bath oils, and suntan lotion. Small pets like gerbils and hamsters often eat food that contains tree nuts.
Obviously, it’s important to read labels, but what do you look for on those labels? Labels will often specify if the product contains nuts or peanuts, but there are other words to watch for as well. Artificial nuts, nut butters and oils, and peanut products like peanut flour, peanut starch, and peanut oil can trigger allergic reactions. Sauces, ice cream, baked goods, and candy often contain nuts, as do many flavorings, thickeners, salad dressings, and roasted or fried foods.
Be extremely careful with unfamiliar ingredients, and try to stick to food with labels. Foods from deli counters, salad bars, and bakeries are often unsafe for those with nut allergies. Remember, too, that a different version of a favorite food may not be as safe as the one you’re accustomed to, because the ingredients may vary. If you’re out at a restaurant, don’t be shy about speaking up and asking how a dish is prepared, because reading the menu won’t always tell you everything that’s in your food.
Be careful of sneaky sources of nuts, including:
- Chili: Sometimes, chili is thickened with peanut butter. Whether it’s a bowl of chili or a chili burger, don’t assume this comfort food is safe.
- Ethnic foods: Mexican mole sauce often has peanuts or peanut butter, and Indian and Thai cuisines are loaded with nuts. Even if nuts are not listed on the menu as part of the dish, they may be used to thicken sauces.
- French fries: Most of the time French fries are ok to eat, but you have to ask about the oil in which they’re fried. Some restaurants, like Five Guys, cook their fries in peanut oil. Interestingly, peanut oil made in the United States is so refined that it doesn’t trigger allergies, but many restaurants use peanut oil from China, which is less refined. Because it’s impossible to know the source of the peanut oil, it’s best to avoid it.
- Deli meat: You wouldn’t necessarily think that meat would have nuts in it, but in fact, some deli meats are studded with pistachios. Other meats cut on the same slicer can be cross-contaminated and trigger allergies. Rather than buying lunch meat from a deli, look for a prepackaged version with a label that specifies that it’s nut safe.
- Cocktails: Many liqueurs get their flavor from nuts, some vodka is infused with nuts, and many gins are flavored with almonds. Even beer may not be safe, as brown ales often contain peanuts or tree nuts.
- Pet food: Let’s face it: sometimes kids put dog food in their mouths. Be careful, because pet foods are not subject to allergen labeling, and may contain nuts. Bird food almost always contains nuts, unless you feed your birds food-grade sunflower seeds that are labeled as nut-safe.
- Gluten-free goodies: Lupin, which is often used as a flour in gluten-free products, is a legume that can cause reactions in people with peanut allergies. Almond flour is also used frequently in gluten-free treats.
- Nut butters: Obviously, you’re not going to feed nut butter to someone who is allergic to nuts. However, nut butter often pops up in random places; sometimes it’s even found in kale chips.
Understanding your allergies and knowing how to avoid triggers can help you live a healthy, symptom-free life. When you enlist the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist, you can be confident that your doctor will help you find the solutions you need to manage your allergies. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, all physicians are board-certified in allergy and immunology and can help you identify triggers and learn to control your symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about available services.