Understanding Peanut Allergy

Peanut is one of the most common allergy-causing foods. Peanut allergy usually appears in the early years of life. Although many kids outgrow allergies to other foods like eggs or milk, most of them do not outgrow allergies to peanuts as they grow older.

Causes of peanut allergy

Peanut allergy occurs when the immune system produces antibodies to proteins in peanut. These antibodies, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE), fight of these "invading" proteins; they are designed to identifies peanut proteins as something harmful to the body. Little is known about why some people develop allergy to peanuts and others do not.

Symptoms of peanut allergy

Peanut allergy often takes place within a few minutes after exposure. Common symptoms of peanut allergy include tingling or itching in or around the throat and mouth, tightening of the chest, and stuffy or runny nose. Other symptoms are skin reactions (swelling, hives, or redness), digestive problems (nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, or diarrhea), and wheezing or shortness of breath.

In severe cases, peanut allergy can cause anaphylaxis, a serious medical condition. Symptoms start immediately after ingesting peanuts and can include rapid pulse, swollen throat, constriction of airways, significant drop in blood pressure, and lightheadedness or loss of consciousness.

How peanut allergy is diagnosed?

Doctors run a physical exam to diagnose peanut allergy and identify other medical problems. They may also recommend patients to consult with an allergist. Allergists conduct either skin prick test or blood test, or both.

How to treat peanut allergy?

Peanuts are very common and they are very difficult to avoid. Despite their best efforts, many people end up having exposed to peanuts at some point. While allergic reactions to peanut are generally not life-threatening, it is very important that you are prepared for a harsh reaction. Antihistamines may reduce the symptoms of peanut allergies.

For those having anaphylactic reaction, a trip to the ER and an injection of adrenaline (epinephrine) are necessary. If you are at risk of anaphylaxis, you will probably need to always bring with you injectable epinephrine.