Recognizing peanut allergy symptoms could save the life of you or your child. Even a mild reaction can be a warning of future life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Despite their name, peanuts are not nuts at all. Instead they are legumes, (belonging to the same family as peas, lentils and soybeans, and peas). And, for most people, peanuts are a healthy food choice — a snack loaded with fiber and nutrients or the basis for a high protein peanut butter sandwich lunch.
For others, however, even a tiny amount of peanuts can be sickening and even life-threatening.
That’s because, for a growing number of people, especially children, peanuts are one of the most common causes of severe allergy. A peanut allergy can cause anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that can cause shock and, if not treated immediately, quickly result in death.
Although people of any age can be allergic to peanuts, the number of children who have peanut allergy symptoms has tripled in recent years. In fact, because peanut allergy can be so serious and even deadly, many schools have banned peanuts and peanut butter sandwiches, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) points out.
We can’t emphasize this enough: Peanut allergy symptoms are serious!
Because of the potential for life-threatening consequences of peanut allergy, the ACAAI urges contacting your doctor immediately if you or your child has even a mild reaction to peanuts — because any symptoms of peanut allergy can be a warning of a possible a severe anaphylactic reaction.
If an allergist determines you are allergic to peanuts, it’s crucial to avoid all peanuts and peanut-derived product and to have an epinephrine injector near you (and make sure you know how to use it) in case of a severe reaction to peanut exposure.
Peanut allergy symptoms
If someone is allergic to peanuts, some or all of these peanut allergy symptoms usually develop without a few minutes of exposure:
- Runny or congested nose
- Skin reactions, including swelling, hives, itching, and redness
- A tight feeling in the throat
- Shortness of breath or wheezing when breathing
- Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
- Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting
Peanut allergy symptoms indicating potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis can include:
- Swelling of the throat causing constricted airways and difficulty or inability to breathe
- A severe drop in blood pressure resulting in shock
- Dizziness, feeling lightheaded, or loss of consciousness
- An unusually rapid pulse rate
Call 911 and seek immediate treatment if you or someone nearby appears to have a severe reaction to peanut exposure. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and must be treated urgently with an epinephrine injector (such as EpiPen, Auvi-Q, Twinject). Minutes count, especially if someone is having severe trouble breathing or is losing consciousness.
Peanut allergy symptoms and treatment are important
Although it was previously assumed an allergy to peanuts was lifelong, research by the National Institutes of Health shows that about 20 percent of individuals with a peanut allergy may eventually outgrow it.
But don’t risk testing yourself by eating peanuts to see if you are still allergic to them — the outcome could be dangerous. Instead, if you or your child has any symptoms of peanut allergy, or has experienced them in the past, see an allergist who will work with you on diagnosing allergies to peanuts and other substances, and help determine the best way to manage and treat your symptoms, the ACCAI advises.
The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has issued updated guidelines that help define which infants may be at the highest risk for peanut allergy. According to the guidelines, babies most likely to develop a peanut allergy are those with severe eczema or an egg allergy.
Research shows introducing peanut-containing foods to four to six month old high-risk infants who have already started eating solid foods may prevent the development of peanut allergy. However, this should not be attempted without direction and close supervision from an experienced allergist who can determine if it is safe to try this peanut allergy prevention strategy.
“Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs,” Anthony S. Fauci, MD, NIAID director, said about the revised guidelines.
“We expect that widespread implementation of these guidelines by healthcare providers will prevent the development of peanut allergy in many susceptible children and ultimately reduce the prevalence of peanut allergy in the United States.”
September 24, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN