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Peanut Allergy

There is a misconception among people that peanut belongs to the family of tree nuts. Peanut allergy, although might commonly be heard as a tree nut allergy, is actually a legume allergy. It is predominantly found in tender age group. Peanut allergies have a tendency to sustain lifetime. But recent studies have given a vivid indication that 20 per cent of children affected with peanut allergy eventually outgrow their allergy. Researchers are looking into it.  Peanut allergy can affect babies, toddlers and kids.

What is Peanut Allergy?

Among the wide range of food allergies, peanut allergy is the most commonly found allergy. The symptoms of peanut allergy range from mild irritations to severe anaphylaxis. Peanut allergy can be characterized by its potential severity of immune reaction.

It can be defined as the hypersensitivity reaction occurring on ingestion of raw peanuts or dietary substances having peanut content leading to the overreaction of immune system.

Causes of peanut allergy

The exact cause of peanut allergy largely remains unknown. Different studies have tried to establish linkages at different point of time but most of them could not be proven at large. As per some of the strong findings, following could be the possible causes:

Direct contact

This is most likely to be the cause of peanut allergy. People consuming raw peanuts or any other food product containing peanuts trigger an immune response within a few hours after the consumption of food. Direct contact of broken skin with peanut oil also results into the same peanut allergic reaction.

Cross contact

In this case, peanut is not directly incorporated into the foodstuffs. It is the result of a food product exposed to peanuts by chance due to casual handling or processing. Peanut allergy might develop on consumption of such food products.

Dry roasting

A recent paper in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has explained that dry roasting of peanuts induces a chemical change that exhibits more robust immune response as compared to raw peanuts; thus enhancing the likeliness to cause allergic reactions.

Inhalation

Inhaling peanut dust or aerosols containing peanut may trigger allergic reaction in human body.

List of Food containing peanuts

Let us list out the food products that have peanut content for a quick reference:

  1. Mixed nuts
  2. Peanut butter
  3. Peanut flour
  4. Peanut meal
  5. Peanut punch
  6. Peanut oil
  7. Peanut sauce
  8. Peanut soup
  9. Valencias
  10. Szechuan sauce
  11. Chocolates
  12. Cookies
  13. Baked stuffs
  14. Candies
  15. Mixed Cereals foods
  16. Desserts
  17. Salad dressings
  18. Cake icing
  19. Peanut popcorn
  20. Nougat
  21. Vegetarian meat substitutes

Symptoms of Peanut Allergy

Peanut allergies afflict a person with varied symptoms ranging from mild to life threatening. Sometimes, the initial allergic reactions show up with minor irritations that progressively worsen to be fatal.

Mild Symptoms of Peanut Allergy

Mild peanut allergy causes mild symptoms that include the following:

  1. Itching or tingling sensation in or around lips, mouth and throat
  2. Skin hives, rashes, itchiness, redness or swelling
  3. Tightening of throat
  4. Running nose or nasal congestion
  5. Nausea or vomiting
  6. Diarrhea
  7. Abdominal cramps
  8. Difficulty to breathe
  9. Wheezing

Serious Symptoms & Signs of peanut allergy

Anaphylaxis can occur due to peanut allergy. It is a potentially life-threatening condition. If a person is affected with anaphylaxis following can be the signs and symptoms:

  1. Swelling in throat
  2. Difficulty in swallowing
  3. Constricted airway
  4. Racing pulse
  5. Drastic drop in blood pressure
  6. Dizziness
  7. Unconsciousness

Emergency medical help should be sought for when there is an incidence of fatal anaphylaxis.

Risk factors

There are several factors responsible for getting affected with peanut allergy. Some of them are discussed below:

Age

Consumption of peanut-based products by infants can heighten the risk of having peanut allergy. This happens because of their immature immune and digestive system.

Atopic disorders

People suffering from atopic dermatitis or any other atopic disease are at a higher risk of suffering from peanut allergy.

Family history

If there is a patient of peanut allergy in your family, you might be a victim of the same.

Other allergies

If you are allergic to any other food product, there is a chance of being allergic to peanuts as well. This is a rare occasion though.

Past allergy to peanuts

If you were allergic to peanuts in your past and have outgrown it, there are chances for the allergy to recur.

Other associated allergies

Recent studies have proven that 25-40 per cent of people having peanut allergy are also allergic to tree nuts. Although peanut is a member of legume family, it has been surprisingly found that peanut allergy patients are not allergic to other members of the family. Therefore, if anyone is found positive to peanut allergy, allergists usually advise him or her to avoid tree nuts as well.

Treatment of peanut allergy

Avoiding peanuts and any food product having even the least amount of peanut is the first treatment to control the frequency of peanut allergy.

Recent research has confirmed that ingesting peanuts in trace amount and increasing the consumption at a regular interval may lead to the de-sensitization of an individual who is allergic to peanuts. This is a therapy whereby the tolerance to peanuts is enhanced. This is usually conducted in patients who are under oral immunotherapy treatment.

Peanut allergy treatment also includes antihistamines. These are apt in bringing down the mild symptoms of peanut allergy under control. However, antihistamines are not powerful in treating anaphylaxis. For an anaphylactic reaction, epinephrine or adrenaline injection is mandatory. People afflicted with anaphylactic shock are kept in emergency medical care for a complete recovery. Doctors advise such patients to carry epinephrine auto-injectors along with them 24/7.

Lifestyle changes, diet and prevention

Peanut is an essential ingredient of a wide range of food products, therefore completely avoiding it is a huge challenge. Despite your best efforts, you are likely to come in contact with peanuts at some point or the other.  Hence, all you can do is maintain a high level of caution. Check the label of every food product that you buy. It is advisable to undergo formal allergic test to figure out if you are prone to other food allergies as well. If found positive, avoid those food products completely. If your doctor advises you to avoid tree nuts then put a check on them.

Having other legumes is absolutely safe for individuals allergic to peanuts. Therefore, you do not necessarily have to cut down on your legume consumption unless any abnormal symptoms crop up.

Thus, the slightest of change in your lifestyle can bring a smile across your face and keep the unnecessary troubles of peanut allergy miles away.

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