Peanut Allergy

What is a Peanut Allergy?

Peanut allergies are at an all-time high, and the cause is not clear. One theory points to immune system sensitivity. Allergens in general are not as great of a threat due in part to modern medicine and germ elimination practices.

The immune system may overreact because of a lack of use. Also, peanuts are comprised of several proteins that other foods simply do not have. The immune system may consider their unique structure a threat. In addition, children who lack vitamin D may be at greater risk for peanut allergies.

Because of video games and other popular forms of indoor entertainment, kids are not playing outside as often as they did. Early indirect exposure may also be to blame. Eighty percent of kids with peanut allergies have a reaction the first time they eat peanuts or peanut products. It is a life-threatening condition that requires extreme caution when it comes to exposure and emergency preparedness.

What are the Symptoms of Peanut Allergy?

Even the tiniest particles and indirect exposure can cause anaphylactic shock in those with a peanut allergy. When the immune system considers peanuts a threat, potentially deadly chemicals are quickly released.

Signs of an allergic reaction to peanuts may include:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Skin reactions that may include redness, rash and/or inflammation
  • Tingly sensation or itchiness near or in the mouth and/or throat
  • Queasiness and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Narrowing of the throat
  • Breathlessness
  • Wheezing

Anaphylaxis can occur within seconds or mere minutes. Signs of anaphylactic shock as a result of peanut exposure may include:

  • Tightening of the airways
  • Throat swelling
  • Sudden low blood pressure (symptom of shock)
  • Fast pulse
  • Faintness
  • Passing out

Peanut Allergy Causes

Peanut allergies are generally regarded as non-hereditary. It appears that there is no significant contribution in the form of genetics to the development of this disease. What does seem to be significant for the development of a peanut allergy is a lack of exposure to peanuts at a young age and poor adjustment of the immune system to peanuts. People suffering from such conditions have incredibly high rates of peanut allergies because their bodies attempt to “attack” the foreign substance even though it causes no harm.

The route of exposure is also very important in the development of peanut allergies. People who are exposed to peanuts in unusual ways, such as using a lotion with ingredients derived from peanuts, have much higher rates of peanut allergies. Additionally, cooking foods with peanut-derived products such as cooking oil is strongly connected to the onset of peanut allergies.

How is Peanut Allergy Treated?

Children can outgrow peanut allergies, but peanuts and all peanut products must be eliminated to prevent a potentially life-threating reaction. It is important to always carry an epinephrine injector in the event of a severe allergic reaction to peanuts. If a serious allergic reaction occurs, administer the epinephrine according to directions, and seek emergency medical help.

Peanut Allergy Prevention

The best way to prevent a peanut allergy is to try to expose children to peanuts at an early age. This will help their immune systems become familiar with peanuts and prevent their bodies from forming any negative reactions. Although babies can’t eat peanuts, they can certainly eat peanut butter and other products that contain peanuts. Additional steps may be taken beforehand in order to further decrease the odds of a peanut allergy. Mothers who consume peanuts while pregnant greatly reduce the odds that their children will eventually develop a peanut allergy.

Allergies in general are essentially the body’s way of trying to respond to foreign substances it isn’t familiar with. Introducing other substances to the body besides peanuts can seriously reduce the odds of a peanut allergy even if the child has not consumed peanuts. The more foreign substances the immune system is exposed to the less danger it will perceive in something harmless such as peanuts.