An allergic reaction to cashews is often a serious medical condition. Depending on the sensitivity of the individual, signs of an allergy may include immediate mouth and throat swelling, mouth sores, projectile vomiting, hives, and the most dangerous, anaphylactic shock. Roughly half of all people with a cashew allergy experience hives, skin rash, and itching after consuming the nuts. Another 25% suffer breathing difficulties and throat swelling, while the remaining individuals experience gastrointestinal distress, cardiovascular problems, and other allergic reactions. On average, a child experiences an allergic reaction to food with cashews by the age of two.
An allergy is the body's immune system reacting to a perceived threat. Food allergies are rare when compared to allergies to things like dander, pollen, and mold spores, and studies show that only 2% of adults and 6% of children have a true food allergy. Tree nuts are, by far, the most common and the most serious food allergy. These nuts include cashews, pistachios, walnuts, and almonds, among others.
Usually, the first signs of an allergic reaction to cashews are welts that appear inside the mouth or on the skin. Hives, the itchy, raised patches of skin, form randomly across the body. In most cases, these symptoms are the only signs of an allergic reaction to the nuts.
More severe symptoms entail gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Respiratory distress is even more serious as an individual's respiratory system may swell, causing wheezing, coughing, chest pains, and difficulty breathing. The most serious symptom of all is anaphylaxis, which is characterized by a sudden onset of cardiac arrhythmia, swelling or blockage of the airways, and unconsciousness. Immediate medical intervention is required since anaphylaxis can lead to death.
Treating an allergic reaction to cashews depends largely on the intensity of the reaction. Treatment for mild allergies, such as hives and skin rashes, usually call for cortosteroid cream to alleviate itching and an antihistamine to treat swelling. Patients suffering from difficulty breathing and irregular heartbeat need immediate medical attention. Some patients may carry a small kit of liquid epinephrine and syringe for an emergency injection if exposed to cashews.
By far, the best method for preventing an allergic reaction is to avoid eating cashews. Individuals with this allergy must be extremely careful about what food they eat, as many seemingly innocuous foods contain cashews or other tree nuts. African, Asian, and Greek cuisines often include cashews, and ice cream, candies, pastries, and baked goods may also contain them. Even some cosmetics, dog treats, and animal foods contain the nut.