“Oh, she can’t eat that -- she’s allergic to peanuts.” This is a phrase I’ve heard probably a million times by now in reference to myself, but it is not even true. Most people do not know that there is a difference between a peanut allergy and a tree nut allergy, and I do not blame them. After being diagnosed with an anaphylactic allergy to tree nuts, I realized how many people constantly get the two allergies confused. I am hoping to settle the differences once and for all.
A peanut is a legume, which is similar to chickpeas, lentils, beans, and peas. Peanuts are grown inside of a pod underground connected to a flowering plant. Tree nuts grow on trees and can include cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, and walnuts. If someone is allergic to one tree nut, that does not automatically mean they are allergic to all tree nuts. I am allergic to both pistachios and cashews, but hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and almonds do not affect me. Both tree nuts and peanuts are grown in warm climates and can have similar allergic reactions, but they are not the same allergy.
It is important to understand the difference between a peanut allergy and a tree nut allergy to ensure the safety of people with either allergy or both allergies. As someone who is allergic to tree nuts and not peanuts, eating food that is contaminated with peanuts does not affect me. For this reason, it is important to confirm that the people one surrounds themselves with understand the differences so they do not give the food allergic individual food contaminated with the allergy. When someone tells you they are allergic to tree nuts or peanuts, remember that there is a difference between the two.