On the Consumption of Cashews

This week just past was a week of Mondays. Nothing but Mondays. Even Friday, which started out like a Friday, ended on a Mondayesque note.

One contributing factor? On one of the Mondays this week, I ate some cashews.

I needed a mid-morning snack. I went to the vending machine, I saw a packet of tropical trail mix. Peanuts and mango and banana. That sounded like the trick!

It also had a couple of cashew halves. Given the size of the package, I can’t imagine that I ate more than four or five.

Had the package said on the front “cashews” in some place where I could see it (it was blocked by the twirling arm thing), I wouldn’t have bought the packet.

Then I started worrying after I ate the cashews. But then I thought about it. Just four or five. The urushiol content of four or five cashew halves cannot be that great. I decided I would be fine.

I should note, for the record, that I do recommend that tropical trail mix. I don’t know who made it, it was in a yellowish/orange package, and it was good. Tasty. Hit the spot.

A cashew allergy is not a peanut allergy. I don’t suddenly start gasping for air and turn blue in the face. It’s a slow-burn allergy. I’m fine for a couple of days and then… I start to itch. A cashew allergy is related to the poison ivy allergy; both work on the same mechanism, the chemical called urushiol. It’s an irritant, causes inflammation, specifically Urushiol-Induced Contact Dermatitis.

Two or three Mondays later, so maybe like two days ago, which I guess would be a Thursday, but it could have been as early as Wednesday, I went to the restroom. I washed my hands.

And my hands, which did not itch prior to that, under the hot water stream of the faucet, itched like I had bugs crawling all over them.

Histamines. Heat excites them. This is why, when I’ve suffered from Poison Ivy in the past, I’ve taken absolutely scorching showers; the hot water sends the histamines into overdrive, and the itching stops for about eight to ten hours.

And, exciting the histamines feels rather… well… good. In an intoxicating, addictive sort of way. I don’t know why the human brain would be wired in such a fashion, yet it is.

Go figure.

So, hands under the faucet, on one of the Mondays this week. And after about five minutes of this, my hands both burned (because, wow, does the office produce super fucking hot water) and they itched and it felt so good.

I shut the water off, and I didn’t feel anything. No itching. No burning. The skin was a bright red, but that passed.

I hoped, actually, that that would be it. That the four or five cashew halves had been broken down in the digestive system, that the urushiol was flushing its way out of the system, which is why it took the extreme heat of the restroom hot water to get the histamines excited enough to notice.

To quote the Master from “The Kings’ Demons” — “Oh my dear, Doctor, you have been naive.”

Because for the last thirty-six hours, I have been insanely itchy. Out-of-my-fucking-mind itchy.

In the past, after eating cashews in large quantities (at a time when I didn’t know that I was, in fact, allergic to cashews because there’s a disconnect of forty-eight to seventy-two hours between consumption and symptoms), I would get the standard poison ivy-like blisters, usually on the forearms or the calves. I haven’t had that, thankfully. This is more of an all-over itchiness. Especially in places where the skin is thin, so like the eyes or the temples or the ears.

This itchiness should pass, if the past holds, in a week to ten days. Until then, I shall be histamatic.

The lesson to be learned? Read the package. Don’t assume. Even small quantities of cashews are bad.

4 thoughts on “On the Consumption of Cashews

  1. After having read your article, I am surprised to learn what you are now claiming, that it was the roasted /raw cashews nuts and not the mango fruit being eaten, is held by you as responsible for causing you all your bodily itch of discomfort. Since your trail mix contained at very same time, mangoes. And being this was a trail mix, at the same time of being consumed by you it might even have contained pistachio nuts too. While you make mention of cashew nuts, always pointing out claiming them to exist as the root cause of your itch, is by association. Nonetheless mangoes exist in same family as poison ivy, yet you neither mention this or perhaps overlooked this fact, and yes, even pistachio nuts also exists within same plant family as does poison ivy for which you make no mention. Noticeably then and most often, it is the presence of either mango when being eaten alone or combined together being eaten with cashew nuts/pistachio nuts that gives these foods their full force and effect most noticeably produces the adverse results that you are now describing. Certainly is the ultimate test for human strength and stamina when it comes to enduring the endless itching.

    Usually it is when either one of these three foods being eaten together in any combination, as you now demonstrate yourself, exist in the 85% majority, are highly allergic, is reason why of the three foods being eaten alone or in combination together is reason for any one of three culprits being held responsible for causing you the discomfort you now describe.
    Interesting side note:” I am highly allergic to poison ivy, (yet 35 yrs I’m in business of professionally eradicating this plant) Yet nonetheless, I have noticed whenever I eat raw or roasted cashews alone w/o anything else, no adverse effect results. When i eat pistachios (either dyed red or white natural), like they are going out of style and there will be no tomorrow, always is w/o noticeable or adverse effect. Yet when either I touch unskinned or eat fresh mango, I next find myself doomed to watch out for the rash soon afterwards to develop. Go figure!

  2. Poison Ivy Guy, you make several good points.

    Yes, I’m aware that mango is related to the cashew and the pistachio nut, that all three contain quantities of urushiol.

    However, I eat mango on a fairly regular basis (like at least once a week), without any ill effects. In other words, no itchery.

    I expect, honestly, that this state of affairs will change someday soon. That there will come a day that I’ll eat some mango and be completely miserable. Until that day, I really do enjoy the taste of mango.

    Nailing down the cashew problem required experimentation in college. If I consume them in massive quantities, as though I were eating peanuts, I get poison ivy-like blisters around the mouth. I think because I only had four, I didn’t have enough contact there to make a difference this time.

    So, yes, I’m leaving the mango blameless for the moment. It’s the cashews’ fault. 🙂

  3. i just had a cashew reaction that sent me to the er. what was weird is that my reaction was quite delayed. my eyes didn’t start swelling till i was in the er being pumped with benedryl, solumedrol and zantac for an hour and half! as soon as my eyes started to swell, they pumped in the epinephine. scary night. my eyes were sill big like puffer fish the next day. damn killer cashews…

  4. Thanks for posting this – I went through expensive allergy testing for foods after getting hives from eating a bunch of cashews…I was afraid to eat nuts for a while and had to avoid things (cross-contamination and all). But my test was negative for foods. They could never figure out the rash. This makes sense to what happened to me!

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