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Nut allergies: could I be allergic to pecans? How can I tell?

Nut allergies are an increasingly rising problem, particularly in children. While nut allergies have been around for decades, the amount of children affected has increased in recent years. The major problem with nut allergies is that it can produce a different reaction every time- meaning the first time may have been minor but the next could be fatal. Symptoms The symptoms of pecan allergy vary from person to person and may even fluctuate from mild to life-threatening in a single individual depending on how much they consume and other specific factors. Generally, symptoms will occur within one hour of ingesting a pecan or a pecan-containing substance. Symptoms could include: hives, itching, swelling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, dizziness and loss of consciousness. Some people may have only one of these symptoms while others may get them all- it's mostly unpredictable.Diagnosis Most people get diagnosed in an allergist's office. Your doctor will analyze your medical history to determine whether the symptoms sound consistent with an immune-mediated reaction. A skin prick test will be performed if the allergist feels that you are having an allergic reaction. During the test, your skin will be scratched with the allergenic protein of the pecan and then the reaction will be measured.  Blood testing may also be useful as it measures the level of allergic response to the pecan as well. Remember, however, that the severity of the reaction can't be measured so if an allergy exists then you should consider avoiding it at all costs- even if the reaction was small at first.Prevention The most effective way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid pecan exposure; however, avoiding pecans is easier said than done. Pecans can be found in several different food sources and some of them are unexpected. Furthermore, if you are allergic to pecans you should avoid all other tree nuts and peanuts since the likelihood that you are allergic to them too is high.Treatment If you accidentally consume pecans, there is anti-histamine and an injectable epinephrine that can be used to counteract the reaction. If you have a pecan allergy, you should keep these medications on you or readily available at all times. Even if you have successfully treated the reaction yourself, you should still go to the emergency room for further examination. Even though the anti-histamine and injectable epinephrine may reverse the symptoms immediately, you may still develop symptoms once the medication wears off.

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