Peanut Allergy Reaction Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

A peanut allergy occurs when your body overreacts to peanuts. It occurs when your body mistakenly identifies peanuts as a harmful substance. A peanut allergy is one of the most common types of food allergies.

Peanut allergy

How does a peanut allergy affect my body?

Your immune system detects and fights harmful viruses or bacteria. When you have a peanut allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies the proteins in peanuts as harmful. If you come in contact with peanuts, your body triggers an allergic reaction.

How common are peanut allergies?

Peanut allergies are common. About 1 in 50 children in the U.S. S have a peanut allergy.

Can someone outgrow a peanut allergy?

Researchers used to think peanut allergies were lifelong. They recently discovered that up to 1 in 5 children who have peanut allergies eventually outgrow them.

What causes a peanut allergy?

Food allergies can be genetic or run in the family. Infants have a higher risk of developing a peanut allergy if they have eczema or an egg allergy.

What are the symptoms of a peanut allergy?

Usually, people with a peanut allergy experience symptoms within two hours of eating peanuts. Peanut allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe and commonly include:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Hives or skin rash.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Swelling, usually in the tongue or lips.

Are there any life-threatening peanut allergy symptoms?

A peanut allergy can cause anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can make it hard or impossible to breathe. It sends your body into shock. If you don’t get treatment, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening.

How is a peanut allergy diagnosed?

If you suspect that you or your child has a peanut allergy, start tracking allergy symptoms. Keeping a record of allergic reactions can help your healthcare provider make an accurate diagnosis. Your provider may ask you:

  • What symptoms you experienced.
  • What and how much you ate.
  • When the symptoms started.
  • What you did to relieve the symptoms.
  • How long the symptoms lasted.

What tests help diagnose a peanut allergy?

Your healthcare provider may use a blood test to diagnose a peanut allergy. A blood test called an immunocap radioallergosorbent (RAST) checks the number of antibodies (immune response cells) in your blood. A higher number of certain types of antibodies can indicate an allergy.

Your healthcare provider may also use a skin test to identify or rule out multiple types of allergies. During a skin test, your provider:

  • Makes a few tiny needle pricks in your back or arm.
  • Applies small doses of different types of allergens (allergy-causing substances) where you have needle pricks.
  • Montiors your skin reaction and interprets them after 15 minutes.

Skin patches that become red and itchy indicate an allergic response. Your provider can use this information to diagnose allergies.

You may also have an oral food challenge. During an oral food challenge, you eat tiny, increasing amounts of a peanut-based product in your healthcare provider’s office. Your healthcare provider has emergency medication and equipment on hand in case you have an allergic reaction.

How can I take care of myself if I have a peanut allergy?

If you have a peanut allergy, you need to pay close attention to what you eat. Food manufacturers must clearly state on their ingredient label whether a food contains peanuts.

Prepackaged foods that don’t contain peanuts can be contaminated during the manufacturing process. Watch for phrases like “may contain peanuts” and “made in a factory on machinery that also may have been used to process peanut products.”

When you go out to eat, ask questions about ingredients. For example, peanut butter may be in certain marinades or sauces. Ice cream or yogurt shops could be places of accidental exposure because peanuts are common ice cream toppings.

How are medications used in peanut allergy treatment?

If you have a peanut allergy, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction. You may take:

  • Epinephrine (EpiPen®, AUVI-Q®, Adrenaclick®, Symjepi® ): This is a lifesaving emergency medication that immediately begins reversing anaphylaxis symptoms.
  • AntihistaminesThese are medicines that reduce congestion or itching.
  • Corticosteroids: These medications reduce swelling if you have an allergic reaction.

How can I prevent a peanut allergy?

Feeding infants small amounts of peanut-containing foods can lessen the chances that they will develop an allergy. One study found that 17% of babies who did not eat peanuts developed an allergy by age 5. In contrast, only 3% of those who ate peanuts developed a peanut allergy by age 5.

Always ask your child’s healthcare provider for recommendations about feeding your child peanuts. The timing of introducing your child to peanuts varies, depending on if your child has:

  • Egg allergies.
  • Eczema.
  • Both severe food allergies and eczema.

Is there a cure for peanut allergies?

There is no cure for peanut allergies. But children can outgrow peanut allergies. As children get older, an allergist (allergy doctor) may perform another blood or skin test to measure a child’s sensitivity to peanuts. If a peanut allergy appears to be decreasing, allergists may recommend an oral food test.

There are new treatments available called Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) and early OIT. This is where carefully selected patients undergo therapy to help develop a tolerance to the food they have an allergy to. Palforzia®, a treatment for peanut allergies, is the first FDA approved treatment for food allergies. Although it doesn't cure peanut allergies, it can make it possible for people to tolerate accidental peanut exposure without having a reaction.

If your child has a peanut allergy, it's important to not give your child peanuts unless an allergist has directed you to do so.

As an adult, you can manage a peanut allergy by carefully avoiding peanuts. You may need to carry epinephrine if you have severe allergies that could lead to anaphylaxis.

When should I go to the emergency department?

Call 911 or go immediately to your nearest emergency department if you experience:

  • Chest pain or tightness.
  • Delirium (sudden confusion).
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  • Dizziness.
  • Heart palpitations or rapid pulse.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Swelling, especially in the tongue or throat.
Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio
Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio Hey, I am founder of Bhaskar Health and completed my Graduation in Physiotherapy from Uttar Pradesh University of Medical Sciences. My clinical interests are in Chest Physiotherapy, stroke rehab, parkinson’s and head injury rehab.

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