People who are allergic to nuts can have life-threatening reactions if they’re not careful about avoiding them. But a new study found only half of adults and children with a peanut or tree-nut allergy could correctly identify all of the nuts to which they are allergic.
The Ohio State University study, published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, also found parents of children with peanut and tree-nut allergies did no better at identifying the samples than parents of children without food allergies.
The findings suggest people diagnosed with nut allergies – up to 1.4 percent of all Americans -- be trained to recognize the varieties that can cause them problems. The researchers noted nuts are the leading cause of food allergy-related deaths in the U.S.
"When we ask patients to avoid peanuts and tree nuts, we shouldn't assume patients know what they're looking for, because they may not,” said lead researcher Todd Hostetler, a pediatric specialist at Ohio State University. “It's worthwhile to do some education about what a tree nut is, what a peanut is, and what they all look like."
For the study, researchers spent more than a week asking 1,105 adults and children to identify an assortment of 19 nuts in and out of the shell, chopped, sliced or diced. The sample included peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios, almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, Macadamia nuts and pine nuts.
Participants were asked to indicate if they are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts. On average, the participants correctly identified about 44 percent of the nuts – including individuals with nut allergies and parents of allergic children. Only 2 percent correctly identified all 19 nuts.