Peanut Allergies: Facts & How to Handle a Reaction
When you think of severe allergic reactions to food, one of the most common causes is due to peanuts. For many, the reaction is life-threatening anaphylaxis, and even the smallest, trace amount of peanuts can be harmful. Unfortunately, peanut allergies have been on the rise in children in recent years, so even if your child is unaffected, it is entirely possible a friend or classmate has the allergy, so precautions are needed if sharing any food.
Risk Factors & Causes
While it isn’t always possible to determine if someone will have a food allergy, or why they may be allergic, but there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing a peanut allergy:
- Age: Toddlers and infants are more commonly afflicted with food allergies because, as we age, the digestive system matures, making the body less likely to react.
- Previous Peanut Allergy: Even though some children outgrow a peanut allergy, having had it in the past may increase the risk of it recurring later in life.
- Other Allergies: Being allergic to one food may increase your risk of being allergic to another, as well as suffering from other allergies – like hay fever – can increase your risk of a food allergy.
- Family with Allergies: If others in your family have food allergies, you are at increased risk, as well.
- Eczema: Some with eczema (atopic dermatitis) may also have or develop a food allergy.
Dangerous reactions occur because the immune system mistakenly identifies the proteins within peanuts as being harmful. If you or your child has already been diagnosed with a peanut allergy, it is vital to know where potential reaction causes can live.
- Direct Contact: This form of exposure is the most common, occurring when an individual eats peanuts or peanut-containing foods. For some, simply having direct skin contact can trigger an allergic reaction.
- Cross-Contact: This exposure can happen if the food being ingested has been exposed to peanuts, whether during the processing or handling. Many food labels will state if a product was made in a facility where peanuts are present, so pay close attention to what is being consumed.
- Inhalation: Peanut flour or peanut oil can easily become airborne, making it easy to be inhaled, leading to an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction & What to Do
An allergic reaction to peanuts will typically show within minutes of exposure. Symptoms may include:
- Runny nose
- Hives, redness or swelling on the skin
- Itching or tingling in the mouth or throat
- Diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting
- Tightening of the throat
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
If you have had any of these somewhat less-severe symptoms of a peanut allergy, discuss with your doctor right away to determine if testing should be performed or precautionary measures need to be in place. A severe reaction, such as anaphylaxis, will require emergency treatment immediately.
Because peanut allergies are the most common cause of food-induced anaphylaxis, it is essential to have an epinephrine injector, such as the EpiPen, around at all times in case of emergency. An ER visit will be required at any time the injection is performed. Anaphylaxis is life-threatening, with symptoms that include:
- Airway constriction
- Difficulty breathing due to throat swelling
- Severe drop in blood pressure (shock)
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
Peanut allergies can be a serious health issue that should be taken seriously. If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed, we can help educate you more on the condition and how you can help prevent a reaction and be prepared should one occur. Visit one of our several convenient locations today.