Peanut allergy is the most common food allergy suffered by Americans, just barely edging out shellfish allergy for the top position. In fact, over 3 million people in the US have an allergy to peanuts or tree nuts, many of them children. Peanut allergy is also on the rise, and rates have tripled since 1994.
Although any food allergy can be frightening, knowledge is power. Accent Allergy believes that by being informed, you can better protect yourself and your loved ones. So get the facts about peanut allergy causes, symptoms, and treatment below.
Peanut allergy causes
Like all food allergies, a peanut allergy is the result of the body’s hyper-immune response to proteins, in this case those found in peanuts. Peanut allergies usually appear in childhood. The exact cause isn’t known at this time, but there is scientific evidence that suggests that children who are first exposed to peanuts later in childhood are at more risk of developing the allergy. Also, non-peanut allergic women who avoid peanuts during their pregnancy may be more likely to have peanut allergic children.
Can you be allergic to peanuts and not other nuts?
Yes. In fact, peanuts are not actually nuts. Peanuts grow in the ground, not on trees, and are members of the legume family. There are more closely related to beans than tree nuts. However, about 20% of peanut allergic patients also have allergies to other foods, including tree nuts.
Can you outgrow a peanut allergy?
Unfortunately, it is rare to outgrow a peanut allergy, particularly a severe one. Peanut allergies are usually lifelong. However, the symptoms sometimes do diminish after childhood.
Peanut allergy symptoms
For most allergic people, peanut allergy symptoms are not severe. They include skin rashes, hives, itching around the mouth, stomach upset, nausea and a runny nose. These mild symptoms can usually safely be treated by over the counter medication and consultation with the allergy specialists at Accent Allergy in Gainesville, FL.
However, a small portion of the population has a more severe reaction to peanuts. This may include anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition. Anaphylaxis can cause throat swelling, respiratory distress, shock, and even cardiac arrest. If anaphylaxis is suspected, epinephrine should be given right away and 911 contacted immediately.
Peanut allergy treatment
If you suspect that you or your child has a peanut allergy, you should confirm it with the specialists at Accent Allergy. They offer several allergy testing methods. These include a skin test that can be done in office, with minimal pain. The test takes less than an hour and you’ll be given your results immediately. If skin testing is not suitable due to certain medication you’re taking or a preexisting skin condition, Accent Allergy also provides RAST blood testing. These tests take a few days to provide results. Finally, a food challenge test may be appropriate. Peanuts are carefully introduced into your diet and any reactions are monitored.
Peanut allergy cure
Unfortunately, there is currently no “cure” for peanut allergy, although immunotherapy research is underway. The best method of symptom control is avoidance of peanuts and peanut products. This means reading labels, asking questions at restaurants, and being aware. Although peanut butter and peanut candy are obvious culprits, here are some potential peanut sources you might not expect:
- Latin American foods – enchilada sauce, mole.
- East Asian foods – particularly Thai dishes.
- Graham cracker crust.
- Chocolate and chocolate bars.
- Foods fried in peanut oil – these can be anything from churros and eggrolls to Thanksgiving turkeys.
Foods containing peanuts are required by the FDA to be labeled as such. So remember to read the packaging, and for prepared foods, ask!
If you have or suspect you have peanut allergy, want to know more about allergies or are interested in getting your allergies under control, contact us! Our allergy specialists will be happy to consult with you and help you manage your allergy symptoms.
Accent Allergy & Sinus Center | 4340 W Newberry Rd #301 | Gainesville, FL 32607 | (352) 271-5389