Q. My partner just ate one Brazil nut, and within minutes his tongue swelled to five times its thickness and double its width. He could barely talk.
He took an antihistamine (chlorpheniramine) and we called the doctor. The doctor said that if the reaction worsened he should go to the hospital. He has no allergies to anything else and never knew he was allergic to Brazil nuts. Neither of us had any idea they were so dangerous.
A. Your partner will need to avoid Brazil nuts in the future. Allergic reactions to these nuts are not uncommon, and they can be life threatening. Some people experience a reaction that requires emergency medical treatment with epinephrine.
The traditional holiday nut bowl may lead to unexpected exposures. Here is a report from another reader: “For years at Christmas my eyes would get irritated and watery. One holiday season I was at my friend’s house and his children needed some nuts cracked. I picked up a Brazil nut and cracked it.
“Within seconds my eyes started watering, so I rubbed them with my fingers. Within one minute my whole face had swollen up. I looked like Rocky (at the end of Rocky part 1). There is always an open bowl of nuts somewhere at Christmas time, but now I avoid them.”