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Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2012 Jan;108(1):25-9. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2011.09.012. Epub 2011 Nov 2.

The ability of adults and children to visually identify peanuts and tree nuts.

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  • 1Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, USA.



Peanuts and tree nuts are common food allergens and are the leading cause of fatalities from food-induced anaphylaxis. Dietary avoidance is the primary management of these allergies and requires the ability to identify peanuts or tree nuts.


To investigate the ability of adults and children to visually identify peanuts and tree nuts.


A nut display was assembled that held peanuts and 9 tree nuts in a total of 19 different forms. Persons 6 years or older completed a worksheet to name the items.


One-thousand one-hundred five subjects completed the study. The mean number of peanuts and tree nuts identified by all subjects was 8.4 (44.2%) out of a possible 19. The mean for children ages 6 to 18 was 4.6 (24.2%), compared with 11.1 (58.4%) for adults older than 18 (P < .001). The most commonly identified items were peanut in the shell and without the shell. The least identified was hazelnut (filbert) in the shell and without the shell. No difference was seen in the performance of peanut- or tree nut-allergic subjects compared with nonallergic subjects. Fifty percent of subjects with a peanut or tree nut allergy correctly identified all forms of peanuts or tree nuts to which they are allergic. Parents of peanut- or tree nut-allergic children did no better than parents of children without such allergy.


Overall, both children and adults are unreliable at visually identifying most nuts. Treatment of nut allergies with dietary avoidance should include education for both adults and children on identification of peanuts and tree nuts.

Copyright © 2012 American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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