Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation




Novel Study Puts Nut Allergies To The Test

Hay Fever

Novel Study Puts Nut Allergies To The Test
First Published: Investigator - July 2009
Updated: May 2011


Children with potentially fatal reactions to certain nuts can safely eat other nuts to free them of their nut allergy, a Flinders Medical Centre pilot study has shown.


In a major finding for children with nut allergies and their parents, the pilot study of 47 children showed that nuts which don’t cause an allergic reaction (non-allergic nuts) can safely be consumed by children with nut allergies.


Only 15-20 percent of children will naturally ‘grow out’ of nut allergy which can take years.


Children in the study were reviewed after only 6-12 months of non-allergic nut consumption.


About 25 percent of children went into remission and could safely eat both types of nuts – those which can cause an allergic reaction (allergic nuts) and non-allergic.


Flinders Medical Centre Paediatrician and study investigator Dr Billy Tao said children allergic to one or more nuts are usually told to avoid all nuts, including those which are not known to cause an allergic reaction.


‘People worry about unexpected accidents,’ he said. ‘However, it is quite possible that eating non-allergic nuts can be safe and improve tolerance to allergic nuts if done properly.’


Dr Tao said patients must undergo a supervised ‘nut challenge’ to determine which nuts are genuinely non-allergic and therefore safe to consume.


The study also showed that eating non-allergic nuts can improve psychological wellbeing and quality of life for nut-allergic children and their families. More than 90 percent of parents in the study reported improved psychological wellbeing about their children being able to eat different nuts at home without developing an allergic reaction.


All children who took part in the pilot study will continue to be reviewed over time to assess remission rates and psychological wellbeing of children and their families. Dr Tao expects more children in the study will go into remission after the first 6-12 month review period.


Dr Tao has now received funding from the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation begin a larger trial of 100 children to further demonstrate the benefits of non-allergic nuts for children with nut allergy, which is expected to be completed in late 2012.


‘We hope to duplicate the results of the pilot study, with a difference – this time we have a fully randomised control group for comparison,’ Dr Tao said.


‘If we can show that eating non-allergic nuts can help children develop tolerance to allergic nuts, it could be a very simple method for treating all types of nut allergies, and not just peanut allergies, which most current research projects are focused on.


‘Such a treatment would be inexpensive, does not require frequent trips to the doctor, and provides a more complete normalisation of life to children with nut allergies because they can eat any nut at any time following remission.’


Up to one percent of children will have a nut allergy. The majority of food allergy-related deaths are due to nut allergy.


Dr Tao is seeking to enrol another 57 children in the study. Parents who are interested in having their children participate can contact Dr Tao on 82109444 or after-hours on 82788353.


Hay Fever
First Published: Southern Health News - September 2008


Spring for many people means a streaming nose, watery eyes and constant sneezing. Hay fever is the common name given to a condition called seasonal allergic rhinitis, which is most often caused by an abnormal sensitivity to airborne pollen.


Flinders Medical Centre’s ex Director of Allergy, and now Royal Adelaide Hospital Director of Allergy Services, Dr Robert Heddle, spoke to Health Talk about hay fever and its treatment.


Hay fever generally peaks during the spring months when airborne pollens are plentiful. However, some people experience sneezing, sniffles, blocked nose and itchy watery eyes all year round.


This condition is called perennial or persistent allergic rhinitis, which is commonly triggered by household allergens including animal hair, fur, dust mites or mould.


How common is hay fever?

Very common! Up to an estimated 30 percent of the population suffer hay fever symptoms on an annual basis.


While many people think of hay fever as a nuisance rather than a medical condition, it can be debilitating. Left untreated, hay fever can have negative effects on mood, learning and work performance. In some cases, the symptoms of hay fever can be so severe that a person can’t sleep or concentrate, and may feel tired or unwell. There is also some evidence that poorly controlled hay fever predisposes to poorer control of asthma in people with the condition.


What are the symptoms of hay fever?

The symptoms of hay fever can vary from person to person. However, people may experience some – or all of the following:

  • Sneezing
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Impaired smell and taste
  • Itchy ears, nose and throat
  • Red, itchy or watery eyes
  • Headaches

Is there a cure for hay fever?

No. There is not a cure for hay fever. However, there are many effective treatments available to help control the symptoms of the condition.


How does hay fever develop?

Your nose acts as a filter. The tiny hairs and mucus that line the nasal passages trap dust, pollens and other microscopic particles. A person with hay fever is allergic to some of the particles that get trapped in the nose, such as pollen.  The immune system fails to discriminate between harmless foreign particles and potentially damaging microbes and responds by launching an ‘attack’ in an attempt to rid the nose of the particles. This attack inflames the nasal passages, causing excess mucous to be produced.


Does diet have an influence on hay fever?

The first step to managing hay fever is to identify the cause of the problem – and then try to remove or avoid the trigger wherever possible.

Suggestions to prevent or limit symptoms of hay fever include:

  • Check the pollen count forecast on television or in the newspaper. Try to stay indoors if the count is high, or if the day is particularly warm and windy or stormy
  • Avoid exposure to grass cuttings and harvesting
  • Regularly splash your eyes with cold water to flush out any pollen


Managing hay fever

In most people diet has only a minor influence on symptoms.




There are a number of sprays and oral medications that may be useful in reducing the symptoms of hay fever.


  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays. These sprays are slower to act, but used regularly, are effective in unblocking the nose and relieving sneezing, itchy nose and watery eyes.
  • Antihistamine nasal sprays and eye drops. These medications provide rapid relief from sneezing and itching symptoms. However, they are generally less effective at relieving nasal congestion. The older antihistamines have common side effects including tiredness and impaired skills.
  • Decongestant nasal sprays or drops. However, they should only be used for a few days. Decongestant tablets are also available but have many side effects and should be avoided by those with vascular, bladder or bowel problems. Immunotherapy (desensitisation) is the closest thing to a cure for hay fever and is the only treatment shown to change the natural history of the disorder. It is however a long term treatment, slow to work and relatively expensive in terms of time and money.


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