Peanut Allergy

A peanut allergy occurs when the body responds abnormally to peanuts. The reaction may range from mild to life-threatening. Even a very small amount of peanuts can lead to a serious reaction. Peanut allergy is seen especially in children. This condition may be serious. It requires care from a doctor.

  • Causes


    The allergy occurs when your body is exposed to peanut proteins. The body mistakes the proteins as harmful substances, and the immune system releases chemicals into the bloodstream, which causes
    symptoms
    .

    Coming in contact with peanuts can occur by:

    • Eating peanuts, foods containing them, or foods that came in contact with them
    • Touching peanuts
    • Inhaling particles containing peanuts (eg, peanut flour)

  • Definition

    A peanut allergy occurs when the body responds abnormally to peanuts. The reaction may range from mild to life-threatening. Even a very small amount of peanuts can lead to a serious reaction. Peanut allergy is seen especially in children.

    This condition may be serious. It requires care from a doctor.

  • Diagnosis

    You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in allergies. The doctor will:

    • Ask about your symptoms
    • Take your medical history
    • Do a physical exam

    Tests may include:

    • Skin prick test—The doctor will place a small amount of food particles on your forearm or back. He will then prick your skin with a needle to allow the particles to enter your skin. If your skin reacts (eg, develop a bump), then that may be a sign that you are allergic to that particular food.
    • Blood test—The doctor will take a sample of blood from you. The blood will be tested for an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE is a type of protein that the body makes when it is exposed to something to which it is allergic.

  • Prevention

    If you are pregnant and do not have a peanut allergy, you may want to consider consuming peanuts to lower the risk that your child will have a peanut allergy.

    To help reduce your chance of a reaction, take these steps:

    • Avoid peanuts, peanut-containing products, and foods that were exposed to peanuts. For instance, when placing an order at a restaurant, ask the server if the dish contains peanuts or is cooked with lis (eg, sauces or oils) that may contain the nut.
    • Read food labels as well as other labels (eg, medicine, make-up, face cream labels). You never know what lis may contain peanuts.

    Here are some foods that may contain peanuts or may have been made in factories that process peanuts:

    • Cookies
    • Pastries
    • Ice cream
    • Energy bars
    • Cereal
    • Bread
    • Salad dressing
    • Chocolate candies
    • Nut butters and oils
    • Sauces and gravies
    • Vegetarian food products (eg, veggie burgers)

    The list may be endless. This is why it is very important to be aware of what you are eating or come in contact with. Even the smallest amount of peanut protein can trigger a life-threatening response.

  • Risk Factors

    Risk factors include:


    • Age—
      Food allergies
      , like peanut allergy, are common in children.

    • Having other allergies (eg, other food allergies,
      hay fever
      )
    • Personal or family history of allergies
    • Atopic dermatitis
      (chronic inflammation of the outer layers of the skin)

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms may include:

    • Hives
      (redness or swelling of the skin)
    • Itching or tingling of the mouth and throat
    • Diarrhea
    • Stomach cramps
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Shortness of breath or wheezing
    • Chest tightness
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    Hives
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    Symptoms that may be a sign of a very serious allergic reaction (
    anaphylaxis
    ) may include:

    • Closing of airways or swelling of throat (making it very hard to breathe)
    • Severe drop in blood pressure
    • Very fast pulse
    • Dizziness
    • Lightheadedness
    • Loss of consciousness

    If you have a serious allergic reaction or are with someone who does, call 911 right away or go directly to the hospital’s emergency room.

  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include: