I have always disliked eating walnuts/pecans because it made the back of my throat and tongue itch. I was at a friend's house when we started talking about pecan pie and I explained my love for the taste but dislike for the effect. I had thought this was natural! My friend's father overheard and said I should avoid walnuts and pecans at all costs because that meant I was allergic. Since he's a doctor, I took his advice. When I did accidentally eat one, I reacted right away with the same itchy throat, tongue, and sometimes it became hard to breathe, but if I drank plenty of water and calmed myself down, I'd be okay.
Fast forward a decade. I'm now 24. My friend just found out she was allergic to walnuts and reacted severely all over, not just with the throat and tongue itching, but her whole body and in rashes. Granted, she ate a lot of walnuts that day (not knowing she was allergic) and I have eaten barely any, but her reaction was by far worse than mine.
I am now wondering if I really have an allergy or if it's just been a mental reaction to me freaking out thinking I was allergic. Is it possible to just have an itchy throat/tongue and it never progress to anything worse? Is it possible I have outgrown it? Is there a safe way to test the allergy? I am temped to just chomp on a few walnuts and see if I even react but if I do react, I know it's possible it could become severe and.. well.. if I suspect a walnut allergy, then that's just plain stupid! Is it really expensive to get tested by a doctor? I work non-profit and don't really make a great income. Or does insurance typically cover that sort of thing? Is it worth testing out for more than my peace of mind? Or should I just continue to avoid those little buggers?
Questions. Questions! Also, does the way a nut is prepared affect the possibility of a reaction? I have noticed if the walnut is in something, baked, cooked, etc. I don't really react as much but if it is "fresh" it bothers me more.
The itching strongly suggests that you are allergic to walnuts. While it is possible that the reaction will never progress to anything worse, your very next reaction could be much worse, even life threatening. You should be tested by a board certified allergist. Insurance usually does cover that type of evaluation. This is something that could be risky for you, and even get worse over time, the rest of your life. Do spend the co-pay to have it evaluated. The reaction may depend on how the nut is prepared. Some substances become less allergenic, when baked or cooked.
Do you have allergies to anything else? Your experience sounds a lot like mine - walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts all burned when I ate them as a child so I naturally avoided them. When I was in my early 20's, I happened to mention this burning to a hazelnut (filbert) farmer who informed me to stop eating them! He said it was a sign of a sensitivity to nuts and that sensitivities can turn to allergies with little or not warning.
Your reactions sound like they were progressing from burning to breathing difficulties so I would avoid nuts and assume a sensitivity/allergy. Insurance does cover allergy testing but it depends on your coverage. I've never been officially tested for specific nuts but I have many other allergies so I just assume I have a sensitivity & avoid them based on the burning reactions I've had. (BTW: I think there is a chemical change if nuts are cooked but I'm not 100% on that.)
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