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2006 Mixed-up nuts: identification of peanuts and tree nuts by children


Ferdman RM, Church JA. Mixed-up nuts: identification of peanuts and tree nuts by children. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2006 Jul;97(1):73-7


BACKGROUND: Peanuts and tree nuts frequently cause severe allergic reactions. Nut avoidance is the key treatment, and accurate identification of nuts is essential for successful avoidance.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the age at which nut-allergic and nonallergic children can accurately identify various nuts and whether nut-allergic children can identify nuts they should avoid.

METHODS: A “nut box” was constructed containing samples of 11 common nuts and pine nuts. Nut-allergic and nonallergic children were asked to identify the nuts, and their responses were compared and correlated by age. Nut-allergic children were asked to identify the nut(s) that they should not eat.

RESULTS: One hundred children (37 allergic and 63 nonallergic) were enrolled. The mean number of nuts correctly identified was only 2.7 per child and increased with age, but there was large variation. Fifty-nine children identified 2 or fewer nuts. Peanuts in the shell were identified most often (89% of children), followed by peanuts out of the shell (52%). Other nuts were identified less commonly, ranging from 32% for pistachios to 0% for Brazil nuts. Nut-allergic children were not better able to correctly identify tree nuts and were less able in the case of peanuts. Of the nut-allergic children, 10 (27%) could not identify the peanut or tree nut to which they were allergic.

CONCLUSIONS: In general, children, including those who are allergic to nuts, can identify few nuts. This lack of recognition could put them at increased risk for unintentional ingestion. As part of an overall educational plan, nut-allergic children should be taught not only to avoid but also to identify the nut to which they are allergic.