Peanut Allergy Basics

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These days more and more kids are developing peanut allergies. The symptoms for those with this medical condition can vary from eczema to anaphylactic shock.

Why do I need to know about peanut allergies?

Those allergic to peanuts are unable to eat specific types of nuts because their body rejects the proteins contained in them. Instead of digesting the food, the body turns against it, treating it as harmful and dangerous. Part of this reaction includes the release of histamines, which can make the child feel ill and trigger severe allergic symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this allergy. Those who are diagnosed with it just have to stay away from peanuts, which can be very difficult. It’s easy enough to avoid peanuts when you can see them, but there are many dishes that use nuts in powder, extract and paste form. These can easily trigger a reaction due to their extra strength. Something as tiny as peanut particles in the air can cause a sensitive child to go into shock. For this reason, some kids are not even allowed to be in the same room if peanuts are present.

While eating the nut is usually the cause of life-threatening reactions, bad reactions can also happen from inhalation of particles or if it comes into contact with the skin or eyes. Peanut extracts and oils (also called arachis oil) are sometimes used in cosmetics, body lotions and massage oils, so these should be carefully considered if they might be worn around someone with the allergy.

It is also important to be aware that allergies to other nuts can be just as severe as peanut allergies and should be treated with equal seriousness.

What are common allergic reactions to nuts?

The tolerance level for kids differs depending on the type of nut, how they are exposed to it and their level of sensitivity. The kind of reaction the child will have also varies. Additionally, those with mild reactions are likely to react more severely to a later exposure.

Milder symptoms include:

  • Headache/Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Wheezing/Sneezing
  • Hives

Severe symptoms include:

  • Swelling around the neck, throat, nose or mouth
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness/Fainting
  • Seizure
  • Anaphylactic shock

What can I do if my child shows signs of peanut allergies?

The first step is definitely to get a proper diagnosis. This can be done at a hospital or medical centre. Because of the potential severity of the allergy, don't try to treat the conditions on your own. It is best to contact a licensed professional.

There are several options available to parents to ensure their child stays away from peanuts. Ensure peanut butter and other products with a high peanut content are not kept in the home. Keep home-prepared food available when away from home where possible. Advise friends, family and event hosts in advance of problem foods and safe substitutes before attending events. Remember that eating other nut products can also be a risk as they are often processed in the same facilities. Keep an EpiPen nearby at all times - and ensure carers know how to use it. Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet. Be cautious when flying because airlines often serve peanuts.

This is a basic overview on the subject of peanut allergies for those who know little about the subject. For more detailed information, we suggest you speak to your doctor.

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