Nut Allergy or Peanut Allergy as its known is not really a true nut, but in the same family as peas and lentils. Peanuts are among the most common allergy-causing foods. One of the most dangerous allergies is the Nut Allergy.
Peanuts are among the most common allergy-causing foods, and they often find their way into things you wouldn’t imagine. Like that chili you had for lunch? It may have been thickened with ground peanuts. Chocolate is also an easy place to mistakenly get nuts.
Some Symptoms of A Nut Allergy are:
- The skin — in the form of red, bumpy rashes (hives), eczema, or redness and swelling around the mouth
- The gastrointestinal tract — in the form of belly cramps, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
- The respiratory tract — symptoms can range from a runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and sneezing to the triggering of asthma with coughing and wheezing
In really bad cases, Nut Allergies (Peanut) can cause a condition called Anaphylaxis (pronounced: ah-nuh-fuh-lak-sus). This is a sudden, potentially severe allergic reaction that can involve various systems in the body (such as the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and cardiovascular system). This can cause a person’s blood pressure to drop, airways to narrow, and tongue to swell, resulting in serious breathing difficulty, loss of consciousness, and, in some cases, even death. Anaphylaxis usually occurs minutes after exposure to a triggering substance, such as a peanut, but some reactions may be delayed by as long as 4 hours.
Some people may be so sensitive to nuts and peanuts that they get an allergic reaction just from breathing in small particles of that food. If you are one of these people, just being around nuts and peanuts can cause you to have an allergic reaction, even if you don’t touch them or know they are there. This is the reason why some airlines have stopped serving peanuts to their passengers.
Although some people outgrow certain food allergies (like milk or egg allergy) over time, this doesn’t usually happen in people who a have Nut Allergy (Peanut). But the good news is that, over time, people with a Nut Allergy (Peanut) usually become really good at avoiding the foods that make them sick.
If your doctor suspects you might have a Nut Allergy(Peanut), he or she will probably refer you to an allergist or allergy specialist for further testing. The allergy specialist will ask you questions — these may cover things like how often you have the reaction, the time it takes between eating a particular food and the start of the symptoms, and whether any family members have allergies or conditions like eczema and asthma. The allergy specialist will most likely perform a skin test on you. This test involves placing liquid extracts of nuts and peanuts on a person’s forearm or back, pricking the skin a tiny bit, and waiting to see if a reddish, raised spot forms, indicating an allergic reaction. You may need to stop taking anti-allergy medications (such as over-the-counter antihistamines) 2 to 3 days before the skin test because they can interfere with the results. Most cold medications as well as some antidepressants may also affect skin testing. Check with the allergist’s office if you are unsure about what medications need to be stopped and for how long. Some doctors may also take a blood sample and send it to a lab where it will be mixed with some of the suspected allergen and checked for IgE antibodies.
Peanuts are among the most common allergy-causing foods, and they often find their way into things you wouldn’t imagine. Like that chili you had for lunch? It may have been thickened with ground peanuts.
To be sure a candy is nut and peanut free, log on to the manufacturer’s website or call the toll-free number listed on the package. Most companies have customer service representatives that can answer nut and peanut allergy questions accurately. The best way to be sure a food is nut free is to read the label. As of January 2006, manufacturers of foods sold in the United States have to list on their labels whether a food contains — or may contain — any of the most common allergens. You should be able to find statements like these somewhere on the label: “contains nuts,” or “made in a facility that also processes nuts.
At home, be on the watch for cross contamination that can happen with knives or in the toaster. Make sure the knife used for making peanut butter sandwiches is not used to butter your bread and that nut breads are not toasted in the same toaster you use. Better yet, make sure your home is a nut-free zone. Here are some other tips that can make life a little easier for people who have an allergy to peanuts or nuts:
- Avoid eating from self-serve or other buffets where people may put spoons in and out of different bowls, risking cross contamination.
- Make your own snacks and lunches to take to other people’s houses, parties, school, and on field trips so you have some safe food.
- Be sure everyone at school — from the principal and staff to your friends and classmates — knows about your food allergy. Ask for a nut-free table in the lunchroom if your school doesn’t already have one.
- Encourage friends and family to wash their hands with soap and water or use hand wipes after meals. Just rinsing hands with water alone or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will not remove all nut or peanut residue.
- Avoid fried foods (especially in restaurants and fast-food places) that may be made with peanut oil or may contain hidden peanuts or nuts.
- Consult with a dietitian to come up with safe but delicious meals and snacks.
- Carry a list of foods to watch out for in your backpack or bag.
- Teach close friends to recognize the signs of anaphylaxis and show them how to help you.
Does having a nut or peanut allergy mean you can’t do all of the things you love or enjoy some great-tasting food? Of course not. You’ll just need to take precautions.