Peanut allergies are one of most common types of allergies, and may appear early on in life. Although children can be resilient and outgrow a variety of allergies, those to peanuts are usually lifelong. Allergies can occur from reactions to plants, animals, foods that you eat as well as certain things. Springtime allergies are particularly severe in those with seasonal allergies.

An allergy occurs when your immune system “overreacts” to a substance that is ingested, inhaled, injected, or handled. In people without allergies, this reaction does not occur, but in the affected person, symptoms can include those ranging from mild discomfort, to even life threatening reactions.

Common Allergy symptoms to be aware of include the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Skin Itching or Itchy eyes
  • Scratchy throat or runny nose
  • Other more threatening reactions to allergies:
  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Problems breathing
  • Asthma attacks or exacerbation of asthma
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Death

peanut-allergies Peanut allergy is a type of food allergy that can be particularly deadly. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America peanut allergy is the #1 cause for death as a result of foods. Estimates show that approximately 1.5 Americans are affected by peanut allergies, and hospitals treat upwards of 30,000 cases of food related anaphylaxis cases per year. About 160 deaths per year in the United States are attributed to peanut allergies which is approximately 80% of all fatalities in the reported food allergy category. If you or your child has a peanut allergy, there is often other allergies that co-exist with the peanut allergy, such as those to tree nuts or seeds.

Statistics indicate that if either parent has any soft of allergy, the probability that their child will develop an allergy are 1 in 3. When both parents have allergies, this number is even higher with these children having a 7 in 10 chance of having an allergy.

Given that there is a strong genetic component in allergies, peanut allergies are more likely to be identified in children whose parents or relatives have allergies. Because with peanut allergies exposure to a minute amount can be catastrophic, it is essential to contact your doctor if you believe you or your child may have a peanut allergy for appropriate diagnosis and plans for handling any potential accidental exposures in the future.

According to the Allergy Proc published in 1989 “Anaphylactic deaths in Asthmatic Patients”, there are as many as one-third of peanut-sensitive patients have severe reactions such as fatal and near fatal anaphylaxis.

Help Avoiding Peanuts: Peanut Allergy Foods to Avoid

Peanuts are found in many kinds of foods but here is a quick list to be aware of as a help in identifying possible sources of peanuts:

Peanut butter
Baked goods, for example, cookies, biscuits, pastries, crackers
Some kinds of health breads contain peanuts
Vegetarian foods
Peanut Oils
Asian Foods, Thai, Chinese and Indonesian foods or cooking
Cereals or Muesli
Flavorings including those that are referred to as natural flavorings
Egg Rolls
Nutrition and health bars
Energy Bars
Peanuts themselves
groundnut, arachis
Mixed nuts marzipan

Avoidance of any products containing peanuts is important as is reading labels completely and carefully. Even in the bulk food aisle of your supermarket, you may find yourself perusing over labels. Some products do not contain peanuts themselves,  but the labels explain that they may be processed in a facility which also processes peanuts. Some small particles could be cross-contaminated into different foods making it even more important to stay vigilant about foods and ingredients with a peanut allergy.

Those with very severe reactions have been known to have to call 911 after eating cookies made with a spatula that was previously used to bake a batch of peanut butter cookies. Even the small amount that can be airborne like in eating peanuts in an airline cabin have been known to cause serious and extreme reactions in some people. If your allergy is extreme you should also take note to avoid flying any airlines which serve peanuts. Airlines which are peanut free are: American, Delta Shuttle, Northwest, United  Aer Lingus, British Air, and US Airways. If you have to take another carrier it is sometimes possible to call in advance, the more advance notice you have the better, about inquiring with the airline representative on the phone if it is possible not to have peanuts served on your particular flight. Some airlines with enough advance notice will accommodate your request.

Although in the past there was no known cure for peanut allergies, there have been some exciting developments recently in 2010 that may be good news for parents with children who have peanut allergies. We’ll cover more about these new advancements in an upcoming article.

In the meantime, visit your doctor right away if you’re concerned about a peanut allergy. Read labels carefully and avoid any foods with peanuts or peanut products. Always wear a medical identification device listing all your allergies on it to assist emergency personnel to treat you appropriately should you need immediate medical treatment.  Ask your doctor for an epi-pen so that you can carry with you in the event of an accidental exposure to peanuts.  If you do plan air, bus, or train travels, bring a type of baby wipe or other wipe that you are not allergic to on board, and carefully wipe down the armrests, seat tray tables, windows, and seats with the wipes. Dispose of the used wipes carefully, and ask your allergist about wearing gloves for this process. Carry on your own food, on an airline several thousand feet in the air this isn’t the time to rely on improper labeling of even airline foods that are supposed to be “peanut free.” Some passengers report life threatening reactions in the air  after eating airline food that was supposedly prepared without peanuts. So, don’t rely on someone else’s cooking while flying.   With the proper precautions you should be able to enjoy your trip and stay healthy as well.