I’m not sure whether nut allergies are more dangerous than other kinds. The worst effect is called anaphylaxis, which as a severe hypersensitivity reaction. It kills about 1% of people experiencing it, totaling up to about 1,500 deaths a year in US. There are many symptoms of anaphylaxis, from swollen skin to a coronary artery spasm. And it can be cause not only by nuts, but by various other allergies as well – including other foods, medications, insect venom, and even latex rubber.
Nut allergies tend to be the strongest of all allergies. While most tend to be relatively small, the average person with a nut allergy has an intense, even fatal reaction if put in contact with nuts. There’s also a lot of foods and products that use nuts, which increases the danger in everyday objects. So, I’d say it’s a combination of the nature of the allergy as well as prevalence of allergens.
I am allergic to nuts. The main danger, at least for me, is that they cause pretty much immediate swelling of the throat, which can close off a person’s airway and kill them in minutes. I think nut allergies are perceived as dangerous because nuts are often stealthy ingredients in food–you don’t always know they’re present in something, especially if they’re ground up. (I did not know, for instance, that Italian green pesto sauce usually contains nuts–until I had an allergic reaction to a plate of pasta at a restaurant in London. I was 29 at the time). Until the last few years nut allergies were not well publicized, so manufacturers of cookies, breads etc. didn’t even think of warning people on their labels that their products contained nuts. People wonder why, particularly at banquets or other events where you can’t order a specific dish individually, I always avoid the salads and desserts. It’s just too risky, and I don’t want the instrument of my death to be a Waldorf salad at a Kiwanis banquet.
All food allegies are acute and dangerous, but there’s something in nuts that’s especially hazardous to certain people like me.
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