I’ve nearly conquered my tree nut allergy.
When I have a reaction, I feel a ton of mouth swelling and have an itchy throat with some wheezing. Luckily, over the past 20+ years I’ve never had to use my Epipen and have mitigated potential disasters with Benedryl whenever I’ve felt a reaction coming along.
Over the years I ate peanuts regularly and strictly avoided everything else (I could easily go through a tray of these homemade O’Henry bars in one sitting). I would ignore the ‘May contain…’ line on ingredient lists but I always carried 2 Epipen’s with me at all times (and still do today).
However, over recent years my allergies have slowly been disappearing. I go for regular allergy skin prick tests, although I’ve read that these tests may not be the most affective analysis method. The typical allergy tests go like this: skin prick test followed by a blood test and then an Oral Food Challenge (OFC). This study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that out of 6,377 OFC’s (over 80% of them involving patients under 18 years old), only 2% experienced an anaphylactic reaction and only 14% experienced any reaction at all.
I’ve never done a blood test or OFC to confirm my allergies, so it’s likely that the long list of nuts I was allergic to wasn’t accurate to begin with. After confirming things with a skin prick test, almonds, hazelnuts and pecans are now nuts I eat regularly. These new diet additions along with the AAAI study led me to believe that I was way over-diagnosed as a child and many of my allergic reactions were mental, not physical (if you fed me anything that looked like a nut and I would have told you my mouth and throat felt a bit funny).
I immediately started eating more nuts as soon as I could, with my backup Benedryl and Epi close at hand. I haven’t wanted to risk needing my Epipen during pregnancy, so I have only been eating my ‘allowed’ nuts and avoiding all others, just in case.
This whole experience makes me wonder what is happening here…are my allergies really going away with time or have the years of allergy tests been wrong? If the most accurate way of confirming an allergy is an OFC, then maybe I shouldn’t have trusted skin prick tests so completely.
I’m definitely no expert and can’t advise anyone pushing the limits of their allergies without confirmation that it’s safe. Once this baby arrives in the next couple of weeks, I’ll line up an OFC for pistachios and cashews, which are the ‘deadliest’ nuts on my list. I’ll keep you posted on how things progress…