Peanut allergy is common and often appears in the first years of life. While many children outgrow allergies to other foods such as milk or eggs, most kids don't outgrow peanut allergy as they get older.
An allergic reaction to peanuts can range from a minor irritation to a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Even people who have only had a mild reaction in the past are at risk of a more serious future reaction.
Peanut Allergy symptoms
An allergic response to peanuts usually occurs within minutes after exposure, and signs and symptoms range from mild stomach or skin reactions to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that can constrict the airways and block breathing.
Signs and symptoms of peanut allergy can include:
- Skin reactions such as hives, redness or swelling
- Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
- Digestive problems such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting
- Tightening of the chest
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Runny or stuffy nose
Peanut allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, a medical emergency that requires treatment with an epinephrine (adrenaline) injector (EpiPen, Twinject) and a trip to the emergency room. Signs and symptoms start soon after consuming peanuts and can include:
- Constriction of airways, including a swollen throat that makes it difficult to breathe
- Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
Dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
What causes it?
Peanut allergy occurs when your immune system develops allergy-type antibodies to peanut proteins. Your immune system mistakenly identifies the proteins as something harmful. The next time you come in contact with peanuts, these antibodies recognize it and signal your immune system to release chemicals such as histamine into your bloodstream, which leads to the signs and symptoms of an allergic response. Scientists aren't sure why some people become allergic to peanuts and others don't.
Exposure to peanuts can occur in three ways:
- Direct contact. The most common cause of peanut allergy is eating peanuts or peanut-containing foods. Sometimes direct skin contact with peanuts can trigger an allergic reaction.
- Cross-contact. This is the unintended introduction of peanuts into a product. It's generally the result of exposure to peanuts during processing or handling of a food product.
- Inhalation. An allergic reaction may occur if you inhale dust or aerosols containing peanuts, such as that of peanut flour or peanut oil cooking spray.