“Peanut allergy is one of the most common forms of food allergy around the world. An allergic reaction to peanuts is also, potentially, one of the most serious.
In recent years, awareness about peanut allergy in children has risen, as has the number of peanut allergy cases reported. A 2017 study reported that peanut allergy in children had increased 21 percent since 2010, and that 2.5 percent of U.S. children may have an allergy to peanuts. While it was thought a peanut allergy was forever, recent research has shown up to 20 percent of people can eventually outgrow it.
Can you prevent a peanut allergy?
Studies have shown that early introduction of peanut into a child’s diet led to a 16% decrease in peanut allergy. In lieu of these studies, international guidelines have been updated to recommend early introduction of peanut based on individual risk factors as early as 4-6 months of age.
Infants at high risk of developing peanut allergies are those with severe eczema and/or egg allergy. In these individuals, introduction of peanut-containing foods should begin after consultation with an allergy specialist. Children with mild to moderate eczema who have already started solids do not need an evaluation and these infants should have peanut-containing foods introduced at home around 6 months of age. Children without eczema or an egg allergy can be introduced to peanut-containing foods according to family preference, also around 4-6 months. More information can be in the ACAAI video, “Introducing peanut-containing foods to prevent peanut allergy.”
Is a Peanut not a Nut?
A peanut is actually a legume, belonging to the same family as soybeans, peas, and lentils. “True” nuts are classified as tree nuts – and include walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts. Having a peanut allergy does not mean you also have a tree nut allergy.
What are the Allergy Symptoms?
The most severe allergic reaction to peanuts is what is known as anaphylaxis — a life-threatening whole-body response to an allergen. Symptoms may include impaired breathing, swelling in the throat, a sudden drop in blood pressure, pale skin, or blue lips, full body hives, fainting and dizziness. Anaphylaxis must be treated immediately with epinephrine (adrenaline), typically administered in an auto-injector.
Less severe symptoms of a peanut allergy include hives, wheezing, shortness of breath and stomach pain.
How is a Peanut Allergy Confirmed?
If you believe you or your child have had an allergic reaction to peanut, or if your child has severe eczema or egg allergy, it is essential you see a qualified allergist/clinical immunologist to make the diagnosis. It would be helpful to keep a food diary and any symptoms before you see your specialist. Your doctor will then make a diagnosis based on your medical history and with the use of skin or blood allergy tests.
HOW DO I KNOW IF PEANUTS ARE IN A FOOD PRODUCT?
It goes without saying that people with a peanut allergy need to be incredibly careful about what they eat. Peanuts and peanut products can be found in a very wide range of foods from cereals and baked goods to sauces and even some vegetarian food products to name a few. It is legislated that if a food product contains a common allergy such as peanut it must state this clearly on the label.
Even if a product does not actually contain peanuts, it is possible there is cross contamination if the food is produced in a factory or on the same lines where peanuts have been packed or processed. As a result, people with a peanut allergy should avoid products that have cautionary statements on the label, such as “may contain peanuts” or “manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts.” Eating out means even more care needs to be taken as there are usually no strict labelling type guidelines.
To find products that are labelled peanut free visit www.myWellabee.com!