If you have experienced sensitivity to peanuts and peanut products, you may want to learn more about peanut allergies to err on the side of caution. Peanut allergies can be deadly in extreme cases and treating your basic symptoms at the earliest detection can prove beneficial. From learning what causes peanut allergies to understanding how to treat them, having the correct information at your disposal can help you better manage a peanut allergy.
Most people in the United States who have a peanut allergy start to develop the first symptoms when they are children, though they may not realize the severity of their allergies until they are older. If you or your child display symptoms of a peanut allergy, speak to a healthcare professional right away to discuss the best prevention and treatment options.
What are the causes of peanut allergies?
The first step toward learning more about peanut allergies is to first understand the cause of this occurrence. Many people believe peanuts are a tree nut and that those with a sensitivity to tree nuts should also avoid peanuts to avoid triggering a reaction.
However, tree nut and peanut allergies are two different things. Peanuts are legumes and belong to the same family as peas, soybeans, and lentils rather than tree nuts.
Most people develop their allergies in young age and keep them for the rest of their lives. However, recent studies have shown that a small percentage of individuals can outgrow a peanut allergy during their lifetime. Doctors will typically test a child for peanut allergies during their infancy as this can help prevent severe reactions from taking place.
Children who develop eczema or an egg allergy may be more prone to developing a peanut allergy as they continue to age. To ensure the safety of your child, you must speak with a healthcare professional early on to determine what level of allergen your child has, if any, before introducing foods containing peanuts.
The earlier you speak to a professional, the easier it is to prevent an allergic reaction from occurring. An allergic reaction to peanuts is commonly caused by your body misidentifying the peanut protein.
When this happens, your body believes the peanut protein is harmful and triggers your immune system to release chemicals into your bloodstream that cause the allergy symptoms. This can happen in three primary ways, including:
- Cross-contact – Cross-contact occurs when peanuts are introduced to a different food product during the production process. Many companies seek to provide labels indicating whether peanut products are manufactured on the premises of other non-peanut products to alert consumers, though accidents may still occur if you are not reading each label properly.
- Direct contact – Direct contact occurs when someone with a peanut allergy has eaten food containing peanuts or from eating peanuts themselves. On occasion, people may exhibit allergy symptoms when their skin has encountered peanuts.
- Inhalation – Inhalation occurs when you have inhaled aerosols or dust containing peanut products, such as peanut oil or peanut flour used for cooking.
What are the symptoms of peanut allergies?
There are several main symptoms to watch out for when attempting to identify a peanut allergy, including:
- Tightening of the throat.
- Runny nose like having a cold.
- Swelling of the skin.
- Hives on the skin.
- Skin redness.
- An itching or tingling sensation in your throat or around your mouth.
- Wheezing or shortness of breath.
- Some digestive issues, such as nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea.
In severe cases, people with peanut allergies may experience anaphylaxis which is a constriction of the airway. Symptoms of anaphylaxis due to peanut allergy are a swelling of the throat which makes it difficult for the individual to breathe, a drop in blood pressure and dizziness or lightheadedness. When experiencing anaphylaxis, you or a loved one may have a rapid pulse.
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If this occurs, you must immediately call emergency services and seek assistance from a health care professional. An epinephrine injector, or EpiPen, may be needed to counteract the deadly symptoms of anaphylaxis. If you have not been given an EpiPen from your doctor yet, you must dial 911 in the case of anaphylaxis to prevent harm.
How do you treat a peanut allergy?
Treating a peanut allergy may be accomplished in numerous ways depending upon the severity of the allergy. If you or your child displays symptoms of a peanut allergy, speak with your health care professional right away to determine the severity of the allergy and to design the best treatment plan to combat these effects.
In most cases your doctor provides you an EpiPen to have on hand if your allergy is severe enough to induce anaphylaxis. If you suffer milder symptoms, such as rash and discomfort, you may not need to carry an EpiPen with you during the day.
Commonly, the only way to treat a peanut allergy is to avoid peanuts and products containing peanuts. You must be diligent about reading the labels on the products you buy to ensure the items was not manufactured at a facility that produced peanut products. In doing so, you are preventing a potential allergy through cross-contact.
When you are out to eat a restaurant, you must ask your server about the ingredients used in a dish you are interested in prior to ordering. You do not want to have an allergic reaction to a new food simply because you did not ask about the ingredients. Many restaurants display signs encouraging customers with peanut allergies to discuss the ingredient list for certain products prior to consuming them.
In the case of a severe allergy, such as reacting to the presence of air particles, it may be necessary to be cautious about entering certain facilities. For instance, you may need to inform an airplane crew before boarding that they cannot serve peanuts while you are on the flight.
If you do need to carry an EpiPen with you, it is crucial to understand how the autoinjector works to ensure you are properly distributing the epinephrine in case of an emergency. Your doctor can demonstrate the correct way of using your EpiPen.
You must always keep your EpiPen with you to ensure you can retrieve it quickly and easily in the event of an allergic reaction. If your child has developed a peanut allergy, speak with the school principal and nurse to have a plan in place in case he or she develops a reaction at school.
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