Peanut allergy is common, especially in children. Peanut allergy symptoms can range from a minor irritation to a life-threatening reaction (anaphylaxis). For some people with peanut allergy, even tiny amounts of peanuts can cause a serious reaction.
If you or your child has had a reaction to peanuts, tell your doctor about it. Peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of severe allergy attacks.
It's important to get even a minor reaction to peanuts checked out. Even if you or your child has had only a mild allergic reaction in the past, there's still a risk of a more serious future reaction.
An allergic response to peanuts usually occurs within minutes after exposure, and symptoms range from mild to severe. Peanut allergy signs and symptoms can include:
Anaphylaxis: A life-threatening reaction
Anaphylaxis signs and symptoms can include all of the above, plus:
When to see a doctor
Seek emergency treatment if you have a severe reaction to peanuts, especially if you have any signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you or someone else displays severe dizziness, severe trouble breathing or loss of consciousness.
Peanut allergy occurs when your immune system mistakenly identifies peanut proteins as something harmful. When you have direct or indirect contact with peanuts, your immune system releases symptom-causing chemicals into your bloodstream. It isn't known exactly why some people become allergic to peanuts and others don't.
Exposure to peanuts can occur in different ways:
Food allergy vs. food intolerance
It isn't clear why some people develop allergies while others don't. However, people with certain risk factors have a greater chance of developing peanut allergy.
Food allergy risk factors include:
While some people think food allergies are linked to childhood hyperactivity and to arthritis, there's no evidence to support this.
Complications of food allergy can include:
Preparing for your appointment
To get the most from your appointment, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and to know what to expect from your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
If your child is seeing the doctor for a peanut allergy, you may also want to ask:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
The following may help determine if you have a peanut allergy or if your symptoms are likely due to something else, such as food intolerance, a bout of food poisoning or some other condition.
Is it peanut allergy? Or is it peanut intolerance?
Treatments and drugs
There's no definitive treatment for peanut allergy, but desensitization is showing promise. Desensitization involves giving children with peanut allergies increasing doses of peanut flour or peanut extract over time. Studies have shown promise in desensitizing children to peanuts. More study is needed.
In the meantime, as with any food allergy, treatment involves taking steps to avoid the food that causes your reaction, learning what steps you can take to relieve minor symptoms, and knowing how to spot and respond to a severe reaction.
Being prepared for a reaction
Know how to use your autoinjector
Lifestyle and home remedies
One of the keys to preventing an allergic reaction is knowing how to avoid the food that causes your symptoms. Follow these steps:
Avoiding foods that contain peanuts
Less obvious foods may contain peanuts or peanut proteins, either because they were made with them or because they came in contact with them during the manufacturing process. Some examples include:
Some people claim that alternative treatments help, but there's not much research in this area. Because peanut allergy can be life-threatening, herbal remedies are generally not recommended and aren't a substitute for medical care. Talk to your doctor before trying any alternative medical treatment.
Coping and support
If your child has peanut allergy, take these steps to help keep him or her safe:
If you have peanut allergy, do the following:
Last Updated: 2012-06-27
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