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What are the Causes and Treatments for Peanut Allergies?

In recent years, peanut allergies have become more common. In fact, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) said peanut allergies in children increased 21% since 2010.

If a child has even a mild allergic reaction to a peanut, you should seek medical attention since allergic reactions can worsen over time. ACAAI notes that some individuals do outgrow their mild peanut allergies, with as many as 20% of peanut allergy sufferers no longer experiencing the allergy as they get older.

Peanuts are actually related to soybeans, peas, and lentils and are not tree nuts. Individuals who experience peanut allergies may not experience nut allergies, but they should visit an allergist to confirm this.

Symptoms of a Peanut Allergy

The symptoms of a peanut allergy typically present quickly after a person comes in contact with food containing peanuts. They include:

  • Skin reactions, such as hives, redness, or swelling
  • Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
  • Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting
  • Tightening of the throat
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Runny nose

The most serious sign of a peanut allergy is anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Constriction of airways
  • Swelling of the throat that makes it difficult to breathe
  • A severe drop in blood pressure (shock)
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness

Causes of a Peanut Allergy

There is no answer for why someone develops a peanut allergy. There are, however, some risk factors that can increase an individual’s risk of an allergy to the food.

Age plays a big role since many food allergies first appear in babies and children. Some of these allergies may go away as the immune system matures. Although an individual can outgrow a peanut allergy, their allergy may also reoccur later in life.

Having an allergy to another food increases an individual’s chances of being allergic to peanuts. Having a family member with food allergies is a risk factor. Finally, people with asthma, environmental allergies, and the skin condition atopic dermatitis, or eczema seem to have higher odds of developing a food allergy.

Treatment for a Peanut Allergy

The first step to treating a peanut allergy is to confirm the peanut allergy with an allergist. This can be accomplished with skin prick and blood tests as well as food challenges. While awaiting confirmation of your food allergy it is best to avoid any foods containing peanuts. Unfortunately, peanuts and peanut products are found in a wide range of food items. For that reason, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 requires packaged food products that contain peanuts to clearly say so on the ingredient label. Nonetheless, it is possible for food to be contaminated with peanuts even if that particular food item doesn’t contain peanuts. If a label indicates “made in a factory that uses nut ingredients,” it is probably best to avoid it. When dining out, ask about the ingredients the restaurant uses in dishes. If complete avoidance of the food becomes problematic, you may also consider food allergy desensitization treatments with a specialized allergist to protect the patient against accidental exposures to peanuts.

Finally, if an individual has a peanut allergy, they will need to have an epinephrine auto-injector (brand names include EpiPen and Adrenalick) on hand in case of severe allergic reactions. For individuals with milder allergies, an over-the-counter antihistamine may help manage any symptoms.

If you are seeking treatment for asthma or allergies, contact Columbia Allergy at one of our convenient locations in California, Oregon, Idaho or Washington. We take a patient-focused approach that views every person as an individual with unique challenges and goals.

This is not medical advice. If you’re concerned you may have an allergy, consult a medical professional.

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