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Nut Allergies: Study Shows Many Can't Identify Nuts That May Cause Allergic Reaction

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 03/19/2012 5:09 pm

Nut Allergies

Not all people with nut allergies are savvy when it comes to identifying the nuts they're actually allergic to, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Ohio State University found that only about half of people in the study with nut allergies were able identify the nuts they are allergic to when shown 19 samples of nuts -- including pine nuts, pistachios, cashews, peanuts and walnuts -- when presented in a variety of different ways.

"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," study researcher Todd Hostetler, an assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at Ohio State University, said in a statement. "It's worthwhile to do some education about what a tree nut is, what a peanut is, and what they all look like."

The study, published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, included 649 adults and 456 children who were recruited outside a museum exhibit in 2010. The study participants reported any nut allergies they had, family history of food allergies, and whether they had ever worked in teaching, childcare, food or health.

Then, the study participants were asked to identify 19 nuts that were either in-shell, out-of-shell, diced, chopped or sliced.

Most people got a little less than half of the answers right -- at 44.2 percent -- and adults did better than children at the test, researchers found. Adults identified, on average, 11.1 of the nuts correctly, compared with kids who, on average, identified 4.6 of the nuts correctly, according to the study.

Just 21 people -- 1.9 percent of those surveyed -- accurately identified all 19 nuts, according to the study. However, 27 -- or 2.4 percent of those surveyed -- reported having some kind of nut allergy. The researchers found that the people with the nut allergies were no more likely to correctly identify the nuts than the people without the nut allergies.

Parents, in general, seemed to do a bit better than others at identifying the nuts, but there didn't seem to be a difference in correct answers between parents of kids with allergies and parents of kids without allergies, researchers found. People who had worked in teaching, childcare, food or health also didn't perform significantly better in the test.

A study in the journal Pediatrics published last year shows that as many as one in 12 kids in the United States has some sort of food allergy, HealthDay reported.

And 25 percent of kids have nut allergies, according to HealthDay.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that peanut allergies are the most common among children, with milk allergies being second most common and shellfish alleges being third most common.

Health.com reported a study last year showing that many families touched by nut allergies feel stigmatized and even excluded because of the health condition.

"Families reported some really very difficult and unpleasant experiences when they were trying to keep their child safe from risk," study researcher Mary Dixon-Woods, professor of medical sociology at the University of Leicester, told Health.com.

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