The prevalence of peanut allergy is on the rise. In ♦ hoarse voice,
fact, the prevalence among young children has ♦ tightness in the throat,
recently doubled, with 1 in 200 children having ♦ profuse sweating,
peanut allergy before age four. Approximately 20 ♦ shallow pulse or shallow breathing (difficulty
percent of children will outgrow their allergy to breathing), and/or
peanuts, which means that many adults, teens, and ♦ changes in skin color (flushing, loss of color, blue
adolescents have a peanut allergy. or purplish tint to lips or fingernails.
So why do some people have peanut allergy? We In the most serious cases,
don’t know exactly why, but you are more likely to anaphylaxis may occur,
have a food allergy if someone in your family also where the person
has one. When someone has a food allergy to cannot breath due to
peanuts, his or her body tends to “misfire” when swelling of the
exposed to peanuts. Instead of treating a peanut like tongue and/or throat
any other food, the body reacts as if the peanut is and/or dangerous drops
harmful. In an attempt to protect the body, the in blood pressure. Any or all of
immune system produces antibodies (chemicals these symptoms indicate a medical emergency and
designed to fight infection) against the peanuts. require immediate medical attention, which may
This immune system process results in the signs and include the administration of liquid antihistamine
symptoms of food allergy, which may include: (such as Benadryl) or a shot of adrenaline (known
as an Epi-Pen). If you know that your child has a
♦ runny nose, peanut allergy, it is important to be prepared with a
♦ hives, plan and to have the appropriate medications on
♦ increased saliva, hand at all times. Talk with your doctor about
♦ stomach pain, making a plan (see the Food Allergy Action Plan at
♦ nausea, http://www.foodallergy.org/actionplan.pdf).
♦ diarrhea, There is no cure for food allergy. The only way to
♦ coughing, prevent food allergy is to strictly avoid the offending
♦ wheezing, food–in this case, peanuts. Avoiding the offending
♦ tingling of the tongue or lips, food requires that you carefully read food labels and
♦ swollen tongue or lips, communicate the food allergy information with
Obvious & Not-So-Obvious Sources of Peanuts
Peanut products: Foods containing peanuts: * Egg rolls
* Cold-pressed or * Ground nuts & mixed nuts * Marzipan
expressed peanut oil * Artificial nuts * Energy bars
* Peanut butter * Nougat * Cereals & granola
* Peanut flour * Salad dressing * Grain breads
* African, Chinese, Thai &
other ethnic dishes Ingredients to look for:
* Cookies, pastries & * Hydrolyzed plant protein
other baked goods * Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
* Ice cream & frozen desserts
those who prepare your food. For parents with for teens can be devastat-
peanut-allergic children, this requires educating ing. Teens take risks,
your child’s school, care providers, and others who often due to social
spend time with your child. circumstances. For the
food-allergic teen, these
Cross Contamination risks can be fatal. Talk
Cross contamination is one of the biggest problems with your teen about
with avoiding peanuts. Cross contamination occurs his/her food allergy.
when something used on peanuts–such as a knife Problem solve with
used in peanut butter–is not thoroughly cleaned them regarding how to carry medications, how to
before coming in contact with a non-peanut con- react in an emergency, and how to educate their
taining food, such as jelly. If the peanut-allergic friends about their peanut allergy. Set limits for
person spreads jelly on his/her toast with that knife, your teenager (e.g., you must show you have your
the person could have a serious reaction. Although Epi-Pen with you in order to get the car keys).
cleaning the knife may seem like a simple solution, Applaud and encourage your teen’s responsible
the problem is much greater than it appears. Many behavior with positive praise and trusting words.
products are processed by manufacturers using the
same equipment that is used to process peanuts. Here are some other tips from the Nemours Foun-
For example, many chocolates are processed in dation that can help your kids to stay safe while
factories where peanuts have also been processed. they’re away from home:
Most tree nuts (which, by the way, are legumes–not
really nuts) are processed using the same equipment ♦ If you’re staying at a friend’s house, bring some
as peanuts. For this reason, your doctor may ask of your own “safe” food.
that you avoid all nuts–not just peanuts–as well as ♦ Make your own lunches. Try veggie wraps,
some other foods known to be commonly processed meat sandwiches, or fruit and cream cheese
around peanuts. sandwiches.
♦ Use and encourage others to use an antiseptic
Travel, restaurants, and hand wash after meals.
cafeterias may also ♦ Avoid fried foods (especially in restaurants and
bring about cross- fast-food places) that may be made with peanut
contamination prob- oil.
lems. Many airlines ♦ Consult with a dietitian to come up with safe but
serve peanut-contain- delicious meals and snacks.
ing snacks. Residue ♦ Carry a list of foods to watch out for in your
from these snacks may backpack or bag.
be left behind on the ♦ Put some safe foods in your backpack for a
seat from the previous quick snack that does not need to be checked.
passenger, which may result in a reaction. For some ♦ Become an avid label reader. Check the ingredi-
people, even inhaling peanut residue in the air can ent list and any processing description, such as
bring about a reaction. Restaurants and school “this product was manufactured alongside a
cafeterias can pose similar problems, where others product that contains peanuts.”
have eaten peanut-containing foods and left the ♦ Use the manufacturer’s toll-free phone number
residue behind on the table. For this reason, your if you have questions about the ingredients
child may be assigned a special table in the school contained in your favorite foods.
cafeteria to reduce their risks.
Having a peanut allergy can be frustrating, but it
Emotions and Food Allergies doesn’t have to keep you from participating in most
Another very important but often overlooked issue activities. Learning strategies for avoiding peanuts
is the emotional side of food allergy. Children who will help those with a peanut allergy to live a full,
have food allergy often feel left out. Social isolation safe life.
Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (2001). Problems with peanuts. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
Cleveland CLinic Health Information Center (2006). Special diets for food allergies. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (2006). Talking to your teen about food allergy. Retrieved June 8,
2006. From http://www.foodallergy.org/downloads/TeenBrochure.pdf.
Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (2006). Tips for managing a peanut allergy. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
Formanek Jr., R. (2001). Food allergies: When food becomes the enemy. Retrieved January 18, 2006.
Gardner, A. (2006). Kissing and peanuts can be a deadly combo. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
Mayo Clinic (2006). Peanut allergy. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
Nemours Foundation (2004). Nut and peanut allergy. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
Sampson, HA. Update on food allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2004;113:805-819.
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