What is a peanut allergy? — A peanut allergy is when a person’s immune (infection-fighting) system responds as if peanuts are harmful to the body. If a person eats, breathes in, or touches peanuts, he or she can have an allergic reaction.
What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction? — Common symptoms include:
●Hives, which are raised, red areas of skin that are itchy
●Puffiness of the face, eyelids, ears, mouth, hands, or feet
●Swelling of the tongue
●Trouble breathing, noisy breathing (wheezing), or coughing
●Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
●Feeling dizzy or passing out
●Death (although this is rare)
A severe allergic reaction is also called “anaphylaxis.” When people have anaphylaxis, they can get very sick, very quickly.
Although less common, a peanut allergy also sometimes causes:
●Eczema – This is a skin condition that makes the skin itchy and flaky.
●Eosinophilic esophagitis – This is a condition that makes it hard to swallow food or causes heartburn.
Is there a test for a peanut allergy? — Yes. Your doctor or nurse will ask about the foods you eat and the symptoms you have. He or she will also do a test to check for a peanut allergy. Tests can include:
●A skin test – For this test, a doctor or nurse will put a tiny drop of peanut on your skin and make a tiny prick in your skin. Then he or she will watch your skin to see if you get a red, itchy bump.
●A blood test to look for a peanut-specific antibody (protein) called “IgE”
Some people have a test called a food challenge. This involves eating a serving of peanuts and seeing whether it causes symptoms. For safety reasons, this test is done only in a doctor’s office or hospital.
How is a peanut allergy treated? — As of now, there is no cure for a peanut allergy.
Allergic reactions to peanuts are usually treated with medicine called epinephrine. Epinephrine comes in a device called an auto-injector. This device gives you a shot of epinephrine (picture 3). When your doctor prescribes an auto-injector, he or she will show you how to use it. Keep your auto-injector with you at all times. If you have an allergic reaction to peanuts, use your auto-injector right away, and then call for an ambulance (in the US and Canada, dial 9-1-1).
If you do not have an epinephrine auto-injector and have an allergic reaction, call for an ambulance. Do not try to get yourself to the hospital. In the hospital, doctors will give you epinephrine and other medicines.
How can I prevent an allergic reaction? — The only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to completely avoid eating peanuts or foods with peanuts in them. To know whether a food contains peanuts, you will need to read its ingredient label. Some countries (including the United States) have laws that make companies clearly list whether a food has peanuts in it.
Some foods have warning labels for food allergies, such as “May contain peanuts.” These foods might have been made on machines or in factories that also made other foods with peanuts. Doctors usually recommend that people with a peanut allergy avoid these foods.
Foods that are especially likely to contain peanuts include baked goods and Asian, African, and Mexican foods. If you eat at a restaurant, bakery, or ice cream parlor, be sure to tell your server about your peanut allergy.
What else should I know if I have a peanut allergy? — People with a peanut allergy:
●Can have an allergic reaction if they share saliva with (kiss) someone who ate peanuts and did not brush his or her teeth afterward
●Cannot have an allergic reaction by only smelling peanut butter
●Might have an allergic reaction by breathing in peanut dust or peanut protein, for example, when someone cooks with peanuts (if they are very allergic)
●Sometimes have allergies to other foods, too, so might need to avoid eating certain other foods
What if my child has a peanut allergy? — If your child has a peanut allergy, let his or her caregivers, schools, and camps know. You should:
●Tell them which foods your child can and can’t eat.
●Make a plan so they know how to treat an allergic reaction.
●Make sure they know where your child’s epinephrine auto-injector is and how and when to use it.
●Make sure they know how to reach you or your child’s doctor in case of an emergency.
Will my child outgrow his or her peanut allergy? — Most children do not outgrow their peanut allergy, but some do. Your child’s doctor will monitor your child’s peanut allergy over time to see whether he or she outgrows it.