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What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Cashews?

By Rebecca Mecomber
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1001497 — On Apr 26, 2019

I had never had this until I realized it was the cashews. I get awful stomach cramps and projectile vomiting. I think the symptoms creep up slowly over a few years. Yeah, it seems like they are related to mangoes and pistachios. I have had no reaction to them, yet.

By juntjoo — On Sep 14, 2015

Hmm, I'm wondering if it was cashews that caused this recent extreme case of full body hives I've been suffering from. Last week before grabbing some cashews that had been strategically positioned at the end of the check stand under the 2 for 1 sale sign, I had been eating some foods with "hydrolyzed corn protein" in the ingredients that were sent to me on my b-day.

I first noticed an itching that day on my ankle before munching down those two bags of cashews which first led me to believe it were the foods with the hydrolyzed corn protein(packaged turkey slices and beans) but didn't eat those foods the day I ate the cashews which later on while going for a run I noticed the whole time I had a strange debilitating cramp.

Anyway, the next day it started, all over my body and now a week later I'm still itching all over. Never had a prob with mangoes or even packaged meats before but nor have I eaten packaged meats nor cashews in a long time. Been eating 'healthy' past couple years. I think and hope its the hydrolyzed corn protein as I'd rather avoid that than delicious cashews. Will do some testing I guess. Eat a few of each on separate occasions.

By SarahGen — On Jul 19, 2013

I'm allergic to cashew nuts too. Cashews make me itchy. The last time I had them, my whole body itched for three days straight. It was terrible.

By bear78 — On Jul 19, 2013

@ddljohn-- Did you consume anything else in that time frame that might have triggered those symptoms? Because it does sound like a mild allergic reaction.

I think it's possible to be allergic to cashews but not to pistachios, although that's probably rare. You might not have issues with mango if you're allergic to cashews but mango skin will probably be a problem. Have you ever had an adverse reaction after touching mango skin, like a rash?

I'm severely allergic to cashews and pistachios and mango skin. I carry an epinephrine pen with me all the time. I avoid most desserts with the fear that it has one of these nuts in them. If I consume any cashew, I develop anaphylaxis. My throat swells up and I can't breathe. And if I touch mango skin, I get a rash on my hand.

By ddljohn — On Jul 18, 2013

I read that cashews are in the same family as pistachios and mangoes. I don't have an allergy to pistachios or mangoes and I didn't think that I was allergic to cashews until recently. I ate some roasted cashews this past weekend and soon after, my lower lip became slightly swollen. I also became nauseated.

I have eaten cashews before and never experienced these symptoms. Does this mean that I'm allergic to cashews now? Is it possible to be allergic to one nut and not allergic to the others in the same family?

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