Peanuts actually belong to the legume family and grow under the ground. Cashews are in the tree nut family along with other nuts like walnut, almond, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio, and Brazil nuts. However, based on recent studies, it is estimated that 25-40 percent of people who have a peanut allergy are also allergic to tree nuts. Additionally, peanuts and tree nuts often come into contact with one another during the manufacturing process. “For these reasons, we frequently tell our patients with a confirmed peanut allergy to avoid tree nuts as well” advises Dr. Stanley Fineman, allergist with Atlanta Allergy & Asthma.
Food allergy is a serious issue and it appears that peanut allergy, in particular, is on the rise among children. A study funded by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) concluded that the number of children in the U.S. with peanut allergy had tripled between 1997 and 2008.
We applaud all efforts to raise awareness and lower risk of exposure in the peanut allergic population. The true risk for patients with peanut allergy is via ingestion or direct contact. It is recommended that patients be vigilant about cleaning areas, such as airline seats and trays, which may have small pieces of peanut. Aerosolized peanut protein is unlikely to cause an anaphylactic reaction.
Airlines should consult with board certified allergists before establishing policies that may affect their customers with food allergies. We can work together to make this a safer world for adults and children at risk for serious allergic reaction to foods.