Peanut allergy: symptoms, treatment and management

A peanut allergy is a severe reaction to peanuts that can lead to death. Therefore, both adults and children should manage their condition carefully to avoid anaphylaxis.

This article explains what a peanut allergy is and how it develops.

It also looks at symptoms a person may be experiencing, available treatment options, and when to see a doctor. Plus, it reviews what the research says about preventing peanut allergies.

A article 2018 states that peanut allergies affect approximately 1.2% of Americans and are the most common food allergy in children, affecting 25% of those with a food allergy.

When a person becomes allergic to peanuts, their body produces peanut-specific IgE antibodies. If the individual consumes peanuts, he triggers a reaction when he encounters these antibodies. The body then releases inflammatory agents, such as histamine, cytokines and chemokines, leading to allergic symptoms.

Some people with peanut allergies can experience severe symptoms if they eat even a small amount of peanuts. Also, in some people, eating peanuts can lead to death. Therefore, a person with a peanut allergy should know how to manage their condition and treat any symptoms.

Nut and peanut allergy

Peanuts are legumes belonging to the same family as peas and lentils and growing underground. Therefore, they belong to a different category than other tree nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, which grow on trees.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 30% of people allergic to peanuts are also allergic to tree nuts. However, having a tree nut allergy does not necessarily mean that a person is allergic to peanuts.

Anyone with a nut allergy should see a doctor to see if they are also allergic to peanuts.

Symptoms of a Peanut Allergy include:

  • urticaria
  • wheezing
  • swelling of the tongue or lips
  • vomiting
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • pale or blue discoloration of the skin
  • indigestion
  • diarrhea
  • stomach cramps
  • a repetitive cough
  • tightness in the throat or hoarse voice
  • weak pulse
  • dizziness
  • confusion

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction requiring immediate medical attention. Anaphylaxis can come on suddenly and get worse quickly, putting a person into shock.

the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) indicates that early symptoms of anaphylaxis may be mild and include a runny nose, rash, or strange feeling. However, these symptoms can quickly lead to more serious symptoms, including:

  • difficulty breathing
  • throat tightness
  • a hoarse voice
  • nausea or vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness or fainting
  • hives or swelling
  • Low blood pressure
  • rapid heartbeat
  • feeling of unhappiness
  • heart attack

People with peanut allergies should carry an epinephrine auto-injector to treat anaphylaxis. Two shots may sometimes be necessary to control symptoms. If anyone sees a person in a state of anaphylaxis, they should seek emergency medical attention immediately.

To manage a peanut allergy, individuals must strictly avoid peanuts and all foods that contain them. Additionally, people with peanut allergies should avoid products that have been contaminated by production processes.

the ACAAI advises that many people with peanut allergies can safely consume foods containing highly refined peanut oil, whose manufacturers have purified and removed the peanut protein. However, people should avoid cold-pressed or unrefined peanut oil which will cause an allergic reaction.

Another option for people between the ages of 4 and 17 is a drug called Palforzia that the Food and drug administration approved in 2020. A person can continue taking the drug if they 18 or older.

Palforzia is an oral form of immunotherapy and aims to reduce allergic reactions – including anaphylaxis – if a person experiences accidental exposure to peanuts. The drug is a powder made from peanuts. A person empties the powder into a semi-solid food they can eat, such as applesauce.

A person taking this medication should continue to avoid peanuts in their diet. If a person is considering this drug, they should consult an allergist.

Treat a reaction

If someone is having a severe reaction like anaphylaxis, epinephrine is the first line treatment. Therefore, a person with a peanut allergy should always carry an injectable dose with them.

Learn more about epinephrine injections.

In the case of anaphylaxis, doctors may also use intravenous fluids and require a person to stay overnight in the hospital until they are stable.

A healthcare professional may also use antihistamines, corticosteroids, and bronchodilators to manage allergic reactions to peanuts. However, these drugs do not treat anaphylaxis.

The goal is to prevent a reaction if someone accidentally eats peanuts or to induce a tolerance to peanuts so that someone can eat them safely. However, people with peanut allergies should avoid trying it themselves.

Peanuts elicit IgE (antibody) mediated responses in some people, leading to an inflammatory cascade and allergic reactions.

Research suggests that peanut proteins may have evolved into potential allergens due to the plant’s defense system.

Infants with severe eczema or an egg allergy are at a higher risk to develop a peanut allergy.

Additionally, Food Allergy Research and Education suggest that younger siblings of peanut-allergic children may themselves be at greater risk.

experts state that to diagnose a peanut allergy, a doctor can take a patient’s medical history and physically examine them. They may ask about the type and amount of food they eat and any accompanying symptoms.

A doctor or allergy specialist can perform a skin test. To do this, a doctor will apply a drop of peanut extract and prick the skin, usually on the arm or back.

They can also measure peanut-specific IgE antibodies in blood serum. Additionally, for someone with a less clear history of peanut allergy, a doctor may perform an oral food challenge test. They can ask a person to eat peanut protein and observe it carefully.

Learn more about how professionals diagnose allergies.

If someone goes into anaphylactic shock, it can affect their central nervous system, causing fainting or cardiac arrest.

experts warn that a peanut allergy can also aggravate existing eczema.

If anyone suspects a peanut allergy, they should contact their doctor, who can perform tests.

If a person has symptoms of anaphylaxis or a severe allergic reaction to peanuts, they should seek emergency medical attention immediately, as failure to do so could be life threatening.

A peanut allergy is usually lifelong. However, approximately 20% people who suffer from a peanut allergy early in life will eventually develop a tolerance to peanuts.

A peanut allergy can be fatal if a person ingests peanuts. Therefore, people should be careful to avoid peanuts and make sure they carry an epinephrine auto-injector.

A peanut allergy is a life-threatening allergic reaction that results in a range of symptoms from hives to breathing difficulties.

Someone suffering from anaphylaxis due to eating peanuts needs urgent medical attention and an injection of epinephrine as the first line of treatment.

To manage a peanut allergy, individuals should avoid eating foods containing peanuts or inhaling peanut particles. A doctor may advise them to wear an injectable epinephrine device.

Children with other allergies are at higher risk for peanut allergy, and experts suggest that introducing peanuts at an early age can prevent it from developing.

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