The following information is intended to help people with allergy to Brazil nuts to manage the condition successfully. The information is intended as general guidance. If you know or believe you are allergic to Brazil nuts, it is important to visit your GP and seek a referral to an allergy clinic even if symptoms have been mild.
General allergy information
Brazil nut allergy is thought to be more common in adults than in children, which may reflect the fact that Brazils are not normally eaten by young children. Allergic reactions to Brazil nuts are frequently severe and have the potential to cause anaphylaxis (the term used for a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction), which includes breathing difficulty.
In two studies of allergic reactions to peanuts or tree nuts in adults and children in the UK, peanuts were the most common cause of allergy followed by Brazil nut.
People with Brazil nut allergy are unlikely to outgrow it. Patients involved in a long-term study on the Isle of Wight did not appear to lose their sensitivity after many years.
Avoiding other nuts
Some people who are allergic to one tree nut, such as Brazil nuts, may become allergic to others, such as walnut. There is also the possibility of certain nuts coming into contact with others during food production. So is it best to avoid all nuts if you are allergic to one or two of them?
Some allergy experts would indeed advise that total avoidance is best in order to play safe. But others disagree. One study states: “In peanut or tree nut allergic children, introduction of specific nuts to which the child is not allergic may improve quality of life and should be considered in patients with multiple foods allergies, vegan or ethnic-specific diets, in whom nuts are an important source of protein.”
Our advice is that it depends what tests you have had. If you have been tested for specific nuts, your doctor or allergist will be able to advise whether it is possible to include certain nuts in your diet. If you do eat specific nuts, it is usually advisable to do so at home so you can better control any risk of cross-contamination. Eating nuts from the shells avoids the risk of cross-contamination from other nuts.
If you have not been tested for specific nuts, then we believe in playing safe — avoiding all nuts — until you are able to be tested.
Brazils are eaten raw and are used in cakes, bread, biscuits, muesli, confectionery and ice cream. Brazil nut butter can be found in supermarkets as well as whole food shops. Brazil nuts are often used to make nut loaf and nut roast.
Although Brazil nuts are not commonly used in Oriental cooking, checks should still be made when ordering food in Asian restaurants.
Brazil nut oil should be avoided because it is likely to be unrefined and will therefore contain the proteins that trigger allergic reactions. It can be used for dressing salads and making vinaigrette dressing.
Detailed information on severe allergy (anaphylaxis) and its treatment can be found on our “Our Factsheets” page.
See the Adrenaline and Anaphylaxis the facts Factsheets in the Anaphylaxis: General advice and information section.
This article has been reviewed by Dr Gary Stiefel, Consultant in Paediatric Allergy, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust; and Dr Richard Pumphrey, Honorary Consultant Immunologist, Central Manchester University Hospitals.
Disclosures: Dr Pumphrey is a medical advisor to MEDA; has received previous financial support from Lincoln Medical to attend a European allergy meeting; has received previous financial support from ALK AbellÃ³ to attend scientific meetings; and is a medical adviser to the Anaphylaxis Campaign. Dr Stiefel has no relevant disclosures.
All the information we produce is evidence based or follows expert opinion and is checked by our expert Clinical and research reviewers. If you wish to know the sources we used in producing any of our information products, please let us know, and we will gladly supply details.
Publication date: June 2015
Review date: June 2018