Peanut Allergy: Overview: Basic information about peanut allergy

Approximately 3 million people or 1.1% of the United States population has a peanut allergy.

An allergic reaction to peanuts occurs when the body builds up antibodies to the protein in the peanuts. Peanut allergy tends to run in families. Only about 15% will outgrow this allergy.

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Peanut intolerance or Sensitivity

Many more are sensitive or intolerant to peanuts. While the symptoms may not be serious at first, a sensitivity can develop into a full blown allergy. While an intolerance is not an immune system response, it can be serious and cause digestive problems, and malnutrition.

Fact: For a person with a peanut allergy, kissing someone who has just eaten peanuts can also cause an allergic reaction.

Peanut Allergy

Peanut Allergy Symptoms

Mild symptoms can be itchy throat, swelling tongue, gastrointestinal discomfort, rash or nausea. More severe symptoms are difficulty breathing, mouth and tongue swelling, and dizziness.

Diagnosis

Blood test – using blood, they can measure how much of certain antibodies you have in your blood stream.

Skin test – A doctor puts a small amount of peanut under the skin. If allergic, you will get redness in that area.

Treatments for Peanut Allergy

Currently the best treatment for peanut allergy is avoidance. Sometimes accidental ingestion occurs; for mild symptoms, taking an antihistamine can help. For a more serious reaction, epinephrine shots (Epi pen) are usually prescribed to keep on hand.

Fact: Some people are so sensitive to peanuts that they cannot be in the same room with any peanut product.

Common ingredients to look out for:

  • Peanuts – Look for peanuts in cookies, as garnish
  • Peanut butter – Look for peanut butter used as a thickener (ex: chili, stews, soups)
  • Peanut oil – Peanut oil is sometimes used in restaurants because it can take high temperatures and is often used for deep frying
  • Arachis oil – another name for peanut oil

Watch out for these as well:

Ground nut, Emulsifier (uncommon), flavoring, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, mandelonas, arachis bouillon, peanut flour

Common foods to look out for:

  • Artificial nuts – usually made from peanuts
  • Candy – read labels carefully
  • Breakfast foods – granola, and trail mixes
  • Salad dressing – check type of oil
  • Soups – use peanut butter as thickener
  • Sunflower seeds – cross contamination
  • All nut butters cross contamination
  • Oriental foods – sauces, dips
  • Indian foods – sauces, flours
  • Thai foods – sauces, peanuts, pieces
  • Baked goods – artificial nut, nut pieces

Tip: Read food labels every time – ingredients often change without warning.

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