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everything you should know about peanut allergies. How to see the signs and symptoms, and what to do if you think you have an allergy to nuts.

Peanut allergy is one of the most threatening forms of allergies in the world. Peanuts can often lead to an anaphylactic shock, even when consumed in very small amounts. If you are a parent and your child has displayed even minor symptoms of an allergic reaction to peanuts, you have to consult a doctor. There are increased chances of this condition getting worse in the future.

What are the symptoms?

With peanuts, there’s typically no delay between the consuming the product and the appearance of the first symptoms. Within minutes, a person who suffers from peanut allergies can experience heavy breath, a sense of suffocating, a runny or a stuffed nasal airway, skin rashes and hives, digestive problems, or itching in the throat and mouth.

There are a lot of foods that can lead to an anaphylactic reaction, but peanuts are the ones most likely to do so. A person that goes into anaphylactic shock because of a peanut allergy will feel fatigue, experience an increase in their pulse, feel the blood pressure drop, but also have difficulty in breathing. If an adrenaline shot is not administered within minutes of going to anaphylaxis, that person could lose consciousness. More than 30 minutes into these symptoms without an epi shot could mean death. 

What causes peanut allergy?

  • Direct contact
  • Cross-contact
  • Cross-reactivity

Direct contact

As with other forms of food allergies, the immune system will identify peanut proteins as being a threat to the body, and release chemicals to fight off the danger. Direct contact with peanuts can trigger an allergic response, whether that implies eating actual peanuts or just touching them.

Cross-contact

This is also a very common phenomenon, which implied eating a product that has previously made contact with peanuts. In some cases, people can have an allergic reaction simply by inhaling the allergen (possible sources include peanut oil cooking spray or peanut flour).

Cross-reactivity

This is also worth mentioning, because there are foods related to peanuts that people who suffer from such an allergy should avoid. For example, if you suffer from a peanut allergy, you might want to avoid eating other products that are part of the same family. Peanuts are legumes, just like soybeans, peas, or even kidney beans. The vast majority of people who have a peanut allergy will test positively for other types of legumes. 

Tree nuts & peanuts

There are a lot of questions revolving around the subject of the relationship between peanuts and tree nuts. Theoretically speaking, tree nuts and peanuts are not members of the same family. They are not botanically related to one another, which means that the proteins found inside them aren’t similar. However, about 35 percent of US toddlers that suffer from peanut allergies have also developed an allergy to tree nuts. Because of these facts, doctors will often recommend patients or parents of children with peanut allergies to avoid consuming tree nuts as well. To avoid any confusion, you might want to ask your doctor to test you or your child for tree nut allergies, if either of you already has a peanut allergy. 

Peanuts are rich in proteins, which makes them a good part of your child’s diet. In case you have to eliminate them, you can replace them with other foods that are rich in protein, such as eggs, meat, grains, or dairy. Keep in mind that most sources of protein are also recognized as being major allergy triggers, so make sure your child isn’t allergic to any of them. 

Diagnosis & treatment

In order to diagnose a peanut allergy, doctors will ask the patient a series of questions related to their current eating habits, their medical history, and any potential symptoms that may have appeared after consuming certain types of food. Skin and blood tests are also common, but elimination diets are often preferred, because they yield more conclusive results.

Peanut allergy cannot be permanently treated. Current research on the matter is heavily focused on oral immunotherapy. This type of therapy implies gradually introducing peanuts into the diet of a child who suffers from peanut allergies. The method is still controversial and is not FDA approved. The treatment can be tricky, so it should never happen without guidance from a doctor. Remember that the risk of anaphylaxis among children and adults who have peanut allergy is very high.  Until there is more information available on the topic, the best solution would be to avoid peanuts altogether. 

Studies have shown that peanut allergies are only outgrown in 20 percent of the cases. Even more, if a child doesn’t outgrow the allergy by the age of six, chances of it ever happening are very low. 

Peanut allergies & labels

Peanut allergies are very dangerous, so there are specific labeling laws that product manufacturers have to adhere to. If a product contains peanuts, this information is required by law to be written on its label. While not mandatory, some manufacturers also specify if their product is made in the same factory where peanut-based products are also being processed. Highly refined peanut oil is safe for people who suffer from peanut allergies, because the refining process eliminated most of the dangerous protein. 

People who have a peanut allergy should also avoid the following products, as they contain peanut protein: nutmeat, flavored nuts, beer nuts, peanut paste, peanut flour, peanut butter, ground nuts and peanuts, and more. For additional safety, also avoid products such as nougat, marzipan, flavoring, chocolate, baked goods, egg rolls, or fried foods. 

Conclusion

Peanut allergies can be a genetic thing. Studies have revealed that children that have a parent or a sibling with a peanut allergy are more likely to develop this condition themselves. Despite being the second most common food allergy, it occupies the first spot on the list of foods that are most likely to cause anaphylaxis and death. Statistics have shown that one out of 200 people that go into peanut-induced anaphylactic shock ends up dying, so carrying an adrenaline shot at all times is the fastest and most reliable way to save a life.

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