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Legume allergy

Introduction

Legumes are a diverse family of foods which include peas, beans, chick peas, lentils, soya and peanuts.

Legume allergy has been increasing over the past 5 to 10 years, particularly the incidence of pea allergy in children.

Some children are allergic to all legumes while other are allergic to only one type (such as garden or mushy peas), one legume group (such as all beans) or to multiple legume groups (such as all peas, beans and peanuts).

Pea, chick pea and lentil allergies are often found to coexist.

The vast majority of children (95%) with a peanut allergy will tolerate other legumes.

Your child only needs to avoid the legumes they are allergic to and should continue to eat those legumes they have previously tolerated.

Checking food labels

European Union legislation requires manufacturers to label all pre-packaged foods containing one or more of the 14 major allergens. Soya, peanut and lupin should always be declared in bold. Other legumes are not considered at present to be major allergens and therefore it is essential that you always check food labels.

Legumes commonly found in the UK

Peanuts

Peanuts or monkey nuts

Beans

  • baked beans
  • haricot beans
  • navy beans
  • pinto beans
  • cannellini beans
  • red kidney beans
  • adzuki beans
  • soya or edamame beans
  • mung beans
  • green beans
  • lima (butter) beans
  • lupin beans or flour

Peas

  • green peas
  • mushy (marrow fat) peas
  • sugar snap peas (mange tout)
  • black eyed peas
  • snow peas

Chick peas

  • gram
  • Bengal gram
  • garbanzo bean
  • Kabuli chana
  • safed chana
  • kala chana
  • desi chana
  • chana dal
  • harbara

Lentils

  • Moong (green lentil)
  • Urad dal (black lentil)
  • Toor or Arhad dal (pigeon pea)
  • Masoor dal (red lentil)
  • Puy lentils

Other members of the legume family

  • tamarind
  • fenugreek
  • alfalfa
  • carob
  • locust beans
  • mesquite

What types of symptoms do legumes cause?

Legumes generally cause immediate allergy symptoms of:

  • rash
  • swelling
  • tickling or itching of the mouth or throat
  • tummy pain
  • being sick (vomiting)
  • feeling sick (nausea)

Occasionally some children, particularly with peanut allergies, will develop severe allergic reactions known as ‘anaphylaxis’. This can include:

  • breathing difficulties
  • looking very pail (pallor)
  • floppiness or loss of consciousness

Rarely, some children will be fine with legumes and only experience symptoms if exercise is undertaken. This reaction has been reported with soya allergies.

How to avoid legumes

Legumes (especially pea and soya) are found in many foods and are often used as bulking agents in foods, such as:

  • meat and fish products
  • processed foods
  • soups, sauces
  • pancake mixes
  • baked goods
  • cereal
  • snacks
  • some gluten-free products

It is therefore important to read ingredients labels carefully every time you shop and ask staff directly if buying catered food sold in restaurants and takeaways.

Legumes are not a common cause of allergic reactions and staff in restaurants or in shops may not be aware that these can be responsible for allergic reactions.

Foods which contain legumes

  • Dahl (or dal), an Asian dish consisting of lentils, peas or other legumes.
  • Houmous (or hummus), a thick paste consisting of chickpeas and tahini (ground sesame seeds).
  • Falafel, a middle Eastern dish consisting of a deep fried ball of ground chick peas, fava beans or other legumes.
  • Curries, containing fenugreek, an Indian spice, the seeds of which are a legume.
  • Worcestershire and HP sauces use tamarind as a flavouring.
  • Carob can be used as a chocolate substitute and is used in the production of locust bean gum.

Further information, help and support

Dietitians: call 0114 271 7212

Allergy nurses: call 0114 226 7872 or email scn-tr.allergy@nhs.net

Allergy secretaries: call 0114 271 7585 (an answer machine is available out of hours)

Allergy UK: call 01322 619898 or visit www.allergyuk.org

Asthma UK: call 01322 619898 or visit www.asthma.org.uk

The Anaphylaxis Campaign: 01252 542029 or visit www.anaphylaxis.org.uk

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Disclaimer

Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

Resource number: ALG15

Resource Type: Article

NHS

Western Bank
Sheffield
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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