Given the serious nature of peanut allergies, it's not surprising that parents feel nervous about offering children other nuts, like cashews. Like many foods, the safety of cashews depends on a number of factors, including your child's age and food allergies. Indeed, according to the World's Healthiest Foods website, cashews can be an excellent source of protein and unsaturated fatty acids for kids. That doesn't mean they're a smart choice for every child or appropriate served in every form.
In Australian children with nut allergies, peanuts were the most common allergen, affecting approximately 83 percent of children, according to the website of Sydney Children's Hospital. Cashews followed at 13 percent. An allergic reaction to cashews is no less serious than one to peanuts, which means the first time you give your child cashews it should be somewhere with easy access to emergency medical care and transportation, not on remote cabin in the mountains.
Cashews Aren't Universally Safe Substitutes
Cashew butter or candy bars can seem like logical solutions for children who are allergic to peanuts, but they aren't necessarily a safe alternative. Factories and stores that grind cashew butter or assemble cashew bars on the same equipment, or using the same tools, as were used to make peanut butter or peanut bars can cause an allergic reaction, according to the Kids with Food Allergies website.
Children under the age of 4 years-old should avoid foods like cashews, for the same reason they shouldn't eat whole grapes and almonds. The curved, rounded shape of a cashew can easily get lodged in a child's airway if swallowed whole. The same choking hazard is present for freshly ground cashew butter -- its sticky, chunky consistency can be difficult for a young child to swallow in large gobs or spread on crackers, warn officials with the United States Department of Agriculture.
Which Kids Should Eat Cashews?
The best candidates for eating cashews are children old enough to eat food without having it cut into small pieces, and who have safely consumed other tree nuts in the past, such as walnuts or almonds. Children who eat cashew products or bars, or any other products that could be made on equipment shared with peanuts, should know beforehand that they're not allergic to peanuts as well.