Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 11:38 UK

Nut allergy 'hits Asian children'

By Gurvinder Aujla
BBC Asian Network

Nut allergies can be very severe

A disproportionately high number of Asian children are being diagnosed with nut allergy, a leading expert says.

Dr Abbass Khakoo, medical director at London's Hillingdon Hospital, is a specialist in food allergies.

He said children from ethnic minorities were over-represented at his two London clinics.

He has found children from ethnic backgrounds appear to display symptoms of nut allergies at a younger age than their white counterparts.

Guys and St Thomas hospital in London, which has a large allergy clinic, has also reported that they are seeing higher numbers of Asian children who have nut allergies.

Dr Khakoo has called for further research to find out why more Asian children appear to be developing nut allergies.

He said: "There is something about the increase in these groups presenting to allergy clinics, that is causing alarm and puzzlement because we don't understand why there has been an explosion in nut allergy"

Peanut allergy affects up to 2% of young children in the UK, but other nuts including almonds, cashew, brazil nuts and walnuts can also cause a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock.


Symptoms can include breathing problems, swelling of the throat and mouth, a change in the heart rate and even unconsciousness which could lead to death.

Raam Uthayanan
Raam Uthayanan did not know he had a nut allergy

Raam Uthayanan, 16, from Pinner in West London, was diagnosed with an nut allergy four months ago.

He said: "Usually my throat closes up, sometimes I may vomit and sometimes my face and lips swell up."

Raam began to have reaction to foods containing nuts from the age of four or five.

He was frequently sick, but his father Sunthar thought he did not like nuts and was lying about feeling unwell.

Sunthar said: "I was so surprised, I didn't expect him to have an nut allergy.

"He had some sort of a problem when he was 10 and when I gave him nutty cornflakes he vomited. But at that time it did not click."

It was only recently when Raam fell ill at school after eating a cake, he was taken to hospital and his family finally realised he was allergic to nuts.

His father said: "I failed actually, even though I had noticed the other incident. Luckily nothing went wrong seriously."

Cakes, biscuits, cereals and in particular take away food are all thought to be high risk.

But Raam said a number of home cooked Sri Lankan dishes also contain nuts and he must now avoid them.

His relatives now ensure they cook meals that he can eat.

"There's quite a lot of curries that have nuts just to decorate them," he said.

"I always have to ask what's in the food before eating it, sometimes at people's house I have to avoid curries that look so good but contain nuts."

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