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Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Tests For Peanut Allergy

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Peanut allergy is a common occurrence. The symptoms of a peanut allergy can range from mild to severe. The condition is most common in children. Even eating a very small amount of peanuts can lead to a severe reaction in some people.

Tests Recommended

There are certain tests which help to determine if you are allergic to peanuts. These medical tests also help to distinguish peanut allergy from other conditions such as food poisoning. Peanut allergy tests include;

  • Description of symptoms - Your doctor will ask you about the amount of food consumed, onset, nature and severity of the symptoms you experienced after you consumed peanuts.
  • Physical examination - A thorough physical exam helps to determine if other medical conditions are causing the symptoms.
  • Food diary - You may be advised to maintain a diary in order to keep track of your dietary habits.
  • Elimination diet - In some cases, peanuts may not be the cause of the condition. Some individuals are allergic to multiple foods. Therefore your doctor may advise you to avoid consuming peanuts or other foods for a couple of weeks. The foods are to be included in the diet after that so that the relation between your symptoms and certain foods can be understood. This process is not recommended in case of severe allergic reactions.
  • Skin test - Food allergies can be diagnosed with the help of a skin prick test. A tiny quantity of the possible allergen is placed on the skin. The area is then pricked so that the allergen penetrates the skin. If you are prone to an allergy, you will develop a reaction in the area.
  • Blood test - Analysis of a blood sample in the laboratory helps to detect the levels of immunoglobulin E in the blood. These are the antibodies which are produced during an allergic reaction.

Causes

An allergic reaction to peanuts occurs when the immune system perceives peanut proteins as harmful substances and tried to attack them. In such situations, the immune system releases certain chemicals in the bloodstream. These chemicals trigger the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction. You may experience these symptoms if you have direct or indirect contact with peanuts. Only some individuals experience such strong reactions to peanuts and the specific reason for this is unknown. Peanut allergy causes include the following;

  • Direct contact with peanuts. Eating peanuts or foods which contain peanuts can produce an allergic reaction. Some people also experience symptoms when they touch peanuts.
  • Cross-contact with peanuts can also lead to a reaction. This occurs when peanut proteins enter food products during the production or handling process.
  • Inhalation of peanut proteins may produce symptoms. This usually occurs when you breathe in dust or air that contains peanut flour or oil.

There is a difference between food allergy and food intolerance. Food allergy involves a reaction of the immune system and even small amounts of the allergen can produce symptoms. Food intolerance may result in minor symptoms such as a stomach upset when small amounts of the specific food are consumed.

Symptoms

Peanut allergy symptoms may occur within moments after consuming peanuts. Some of the common symptoms of peanut allergy include;

  • Skin hives, swelling or redness
  • Itching of throat and mouth
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Irritation of the chest
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Wheezing and Shortness of breath

Some individuals may experience anaphylaxis after exposure to peanuts. This is a medical emergency and immediate medical attention is necessary. The symptoms of anaphylaxis include;

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Loss of consciousness

It is essential to seek prompt medical care if you experience a severe allergic reaction to peanuts or if you have any symptoms of anaphylaxis.

Treatment

Peanut allergy treatment involves avoiding exposure to triggers. You need to know what to do to alleviate symptoms and how to recognize and respond in case a severe reaction occurs. In case of a minor peanut allergy, you can make use of antihistamines.

These medications help to reduce symptoms such as itching or skin rash. You may obtain them over-the-counter or through a prescription. Severe allergic reactions require quick medical treatment through epinephrine injections. Individuals who are prone to such severe allergies may be advised to carry a device known as an epinephrine autoinjector. This introduces a small amount of epinephrine into the bloodstream. Remember to keep track of your autoinjector expiration date and keep it with you at all times. Ensure that you know how to use is properly and also instruct your family or close friends so that they can give you an epinephrine shot in case of an emergency. Avoid all foods that contain the allergen in order to prevent allergic reactions in the future.

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