What You May Not Know About Peanut Allergies

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, there’s compelling research to suggest that peanut allergy in children has increased over 20 percent since 2010. It’s now believed that 2.5 percent of kids in the U.S. may have peanut allergies.

What to know about Peanut Allergies

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Peanuts are one of the most allergenic foods out there. They can cause mild reactions, including a runny nose, rash, upset stomach, and tingling in the mouth, but they are also known for causing severe reactions. In fact, peanuts are the most common cause of food-induced anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can cause people to go into shock and stop breathing. It must be treated with an epinephrine injector.

Here’s the down-low on peanut allergies and current recommendations for treatment:

Are peanut allergies the same as other nut allergies?
Not quite, because peanuts aren’t true nuts; they come from the legume family, just as split peas and lentils do. However, their chemical composition closely resembles that of tree nuts, so the human body often reacts to them as it would to other nuts that tend to cause allergies (such as walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, etc.)

Should I keep my baby from eating peanuts?
This used to be conventional wisdom, but researchers have examined it in recent years and changed their recommendations. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) now recommends that babies at high risk for developing peanut allergies should be introduced to peanut-containing foods when they are just four to six months old. The organization stresses that these babies should be evaluated by a physician first, and recommendations may vary depending on physician input. Children at risk for peanut allergy are those with severe eczema and/or egg allergy. Many physicians recommend that the infant try their first taste of peanut when they are being monitored in a clinical setting.

Do I have to eat peanuts to have an allergic reaction?
The most common trigger for peanut allergy symptoms is actually eating the peanuts. Some foods are clearly taboo, such as peanut butter and peanut M&Ms, but peanuts can find their way into a number of products where you might not suspect them. This is often due to cross-contamination, where products are manufactured in factories where peanut-containing foods are produced. They may pick up traces of peanut in the process. Depending on the severity of your allergy, inhaling peanut dust or aerosol from peanut oil may be enough to kick off your peanut allergy. Some people react when their skin comes into direct contact with peanuts.

Can I outgrow peanut allergies?
Peanut allergies are most common in children. Some kids outgrow them with time, but others react to peanuts for life. And just because your symptoms subside doesn’t mean they are gone for good. If you have once had peanut allergies, you are always at risk for them to recur. Your reactions can change with time, too. Some people who used to have only mild reactions to peanuts react more severely at different times in their lives.

Who is at risk for peanut allergies?
Certain factors increase your risk for peanut allergies. Genetics play a role; if other members of your family have allergies—particularly food allergies—you are at greater risk. If you have other food allergies, you could also be more susceptible to peanut sensitivities. People with eczema are also more likely to have peanut allergy.

Can peanut allergies be treated?
Yes. Groundbreaking studies at Duke, Stanford, and other research centers have shown that oral and sublingual immunotherapy can help desensitize people to peanuts. These methods of immunotherapy involve ingesting small amounts of peanuts or taking a liquid solution with traces of peanut proteins. Immunotherapy helps build up people’s tolerance to peanuts over time so that they will stop reacting to them.

Contact AllergyEasy to learn more about sublingual immunotherapy for nut allergy treatment.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.