Why I am tree-nut free: Part 1

Last spring I wrote several blog-posts providing the details of the discovery that I was allergic to barley and how this allergy changed my diet. (for more see Why I am barley-free: part 1Why I am barley-free: Part 2). If you have explored my blog enough you would know that I am also allergic to tree-nuts though I have never really shared how I discovered I was allergic to tree-nuts or how this allergy affect my life. Well here I go:

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Unlike my barley allergy which mainly affects my skin (though it may tear up my intestines a little too) my tree-nut allergy is much more deadly and I have had it my whole life. When I was two years old I was at the San Diego zoo with my whole family: cousins and all. Sometime during our visit I was given half a macadamia nut to try. Still new to harder foods, my family was attentive to see how I would handle it. When they noticed I did not seem to be breathing well they thought I had choked on it. But  fortunately my firefighter uncle recognized the signs: my throat was closing up due to an allergic reaction. We rushed to the hospital. My mom not knowing how bad I was tried to sign us in to wait, but once the medical staff saw my face they rushed us in. With my anxious family unsure what to do, I was taken in and given shots of benadryl. The swelling went down and I recovered.

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After that my parents were cautious of foods with tree-nuts; keeping any far from my reach and being careful when baking with them in the house. Many times there were baked goods made in two versions nut-free and with nuts. By the time I was in elementary school I knew what to watch for: homemade desserts, certain candy bars and the like. I learned quickly to always ask, to read labels, and not assume something was tree-nut free.

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I always carried benadryl on me, just in case something happened, there were few instances at school were a treat for the class or special event meant unfamiliar dishes with unknown ingredients that I thought were safe. But after a bite I could tell my mouth would start itching,  then my chest would get tight, my eyes well with tears, my nose would run and then I would get what almost looked like scratch marks around my face. Now this did not happen everytime. It really all had to do with how much I ingested before realizing the harm. For the most part I would only get a itchy mouth, take some benadryl and I’d be set.

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Now before I go any further let me make this clear, I am not so allergic to tree-nuts that if I touch one and get the oil on me I go into shock, in order to go into any form of shock I would have to ingest a large amount (and I mean a huge amount) of nuts and not know it. I also am not allergic to peanuts which are technically a legume or peanut butter. That is a different allergy all together. I love my pay days, apples and peanut butter, and the occasional reeses or reeses pieces. So no issues there.

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I as I already stated, had learned to expect tree-nuts in desserts mainly but as I got older I learned they can be found in unusual dishes as well. At a holiday meal, again with the whole family, I decided to try a family member’s chili, after a few bites and recognizing the familiar crunch, I mentioned I thought there were nuts in the dish. This was not stated on the menu. My family was skeptic but when we asked the waiter sure enough there were cashews. A little benadryl and again I was fine.

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In high school for a friends birthday party we went to a restaurant that sells huge warm cookies in small pizza dishes. I ate half of one that was oatmeal raisin. It tasted great, until the very end, when my stomach started to cramp up. I asked to look at the menu: the whole thing had macadamia nuts in it.  How would I know that? The crunchy texture I took to be only crispy oats. I was taken home quickly and fed plenty of benaryl. My parents had me stay awake in front of the TV and monitored my breathing etc. I broke out into hives, and could barely breath between the tight throat and running nose. My eyes were swollen and watering. I had a hard time, unlike other instances staying calm. But like previous experiences  the medicine did it’s magic and I was fine.

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These are some of my early life experiences with my tree-nut allergy. In all of these encounters I have never discovered what any of the individual nuts taste like. Name it: pecan, walnut, cashew, pistachio, hazelnut, macadamia, almond, I do  not know what any of them taste like -to me no matter how delicious you say a dish is if it has nuts in them all I taste in a itchy tongue.

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So that is the start to my story of why I am tree-nut free my experiences with my tree-nut allergy are different as an adult as I have traveled to other countries and discovered more foods and languages. But more on that to come.

6 thoughts on “Why I am tree-nut free: Part 1

  1. I get the itchy tongue too!!! No one else has ever understood that. I don’t swell up that bad, but I do get itchy at the back of my throat (like around the eustacian tubes). And while I did react to peanuts, cashews & almonds for much of my youth, I seem ok with them again now. Go figure. I wouldn’t recommend that to you, obviously neither do you!

    • Thanks for sharing! Allergies are a funny thing. Sometimes our allergies don’t appear until we are adults (like my allergy to barley) other times childhood allergies fade when we get older. But you are right for me tree-nuts are probably a life-long allergy.

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