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Health Information For Parents
Peanuts are among the most common allergy-causing foods, and they often find their way into things you wouldn’t expect. Take chili, for example: It may be thickened with ground peanuts.
Peanuts aren’t actually a true nut; they’re a legume (in the same family as peas and lentils). But the proteins in peanuts are similar in structure to those in tree nuts. For this reason, people who are allergic to peanuts can also be allergic to tree nuts, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pecans, and cashews.
Sometimes people outgrow some food allergies over time (like milk, egg, soy, and wheat allergies), but peanut and tree nut allergies are lifelong in many people.
When someone has a nut allergy, the body’s immune system, which normally fights infections, overreacts to proteins in the nut. If the person eats something that contains the nut, the body thinks these proteins are harmful invaders and responds by working very hard to fight off the invader. This causes an allergic reaction.
Even a small amount of peanut or tree nut protein can set off a reaction. But allergic reactions from breathing in small particles of nuts or peanuts are rare. That’s because the food usually needs to be eaten to cause a reaction. Most foods with peanuts in them don’t allow enough of the protein to escape into the air to cause a reaction. And just the smell of foods containing peanuts won’t cause one because the scent doesn’t contain the protein.
When someone with a peanut or tree nut allergy has something with nuts in it, the body releases chemicals like
This can cause symptoms such as:
Reactions to foods, like peanuts and tree nuts, can be different. It all depends on the person — and sometimes the same person can react differently at different times.
A nut allergy sometimes can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis might start with some of the same symptoms as a less severe reaction, but can quickly get worse. The person may have trouble breathing or pass out. More than one part of the body might be involved. If it isn’t treated, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening.
If your child has a peanut or tree nut allergy (or any kind of serious food allergy), the doctor will want him or her to carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of an emergency.
An epinephrine auto-injector is a prescription medicine that comes in a small, easy-to-carry container. It’s easy to use. Your doctor will show you how. Kids who are old enough can be taught how to give themselves the injection. If they carry the epinephrine, it should be nearby, not left in a locker or in the nurse’s office.
Wherever your child is, caregivers should always know where the epinephrine is, have easy access to it, and know how to give the shot. Staff at your child’s school should know about the allergy and have an action plan in place. Your child’s medicines should be accessible at all times.
Every second counts in an allergic reaction. If your child starts having serious allergic symptoms, like swelling of the mouth or throat or difficulty breathing, give the epinephrine auto-injector right away. Also give it right away if the symptoms involve two different parts of the body, like hives with vomiting. Then call 911 and take your child to the emergency room. Your child needs to be under medical supervision because even if the worst seems to have passed, a second wave of serious symptoms can happen.
If allergy skin testing shows that your child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, an
will provide guidelines on what to do.
The best way to prevent a reaction is to avoid peanuts and tree nuts. Avoiding these nuts means more than just not eating them. It also means not eating any foods that might contain tree nuts or peanuts as ingredients.
The best way to be sure a food is nut-free is to read the food label. Manufacturers of foods sold in the United States must state on their labels whether the foods contain peanuts or tree nuts. Check the ingredients list first.
After checking the ingredients list, look on the label for phrases like these:
Although these foods might not use nut ingredients, the warnings are there to let people know they might contain traces of nuts. That can happen through “cross-contamination,” when nuts get into a food product because it is made or served in a place that uses nuts in other foods. Manufacturers are not required to list peanuts or tree nuts on the label when there might be accidental cross-contamination, but many do.
Some of the highest-risk foods for people with peanut or tree nut allergy include:
Always be cautious. Even if your child has eaten a food in the past, manufacturers sometimes change their processes — for example, switching suppliers to a company that uses shared equipment with nuts. And two foods that seem the same might have differences in their manufacturing. Because ingredients can change, it’s important to read the label every time, even if the food was safe in the past.
To help reduce contact with nut allergens and the possibility of reactions in someone with a peanut or tree nut allergy:
A little preparation and prevention can help make sure that your child’s allergy doesn’t get in the way of a happy, healthy everyday life.
Milk allergy can cause serious reactions. Find out how to keep kids safe.
Almost all infants are fussy at times. But some are very fussy because they have an allergy to the protein in cow’s milk, which is the basis for most commercial baby formulas.
Shellfish allergies can be serious – and shellfish can appear in some surprising foods and products. Read about shellfish allergy and what to do when a reaction is severe.
Peanuts are one of the most common allergy-causing foods, and they often find their way into things you wouldn’t imagine. Learn the facts on living with a nut or peanut allergy.
Find out how to make healthy food choices for your family by reading food labels.
Taking precautions and carrying meds are just part of normal life for someone who has a food allergy. Here are some tips on how to make travel also feel perfectly routine.
Although food allergies are more common than ever, people who have them may feel different or embarrassed. A good friend can really help.
Find more than 30 articles in English and Spanish about all aspects of food allergies in children.
Millions of Americans, including many kids, have an allergy. Find out how allergies are diagnosed and how to keep them under control.
Has your child broken out in welts? It could be a case of the hives. Learn how to soothe itchy bumps and help your child feel better.
Food allergies and food intolerances, like lactose intolerance, are not the same. Find out more.
A scratch or skin prick test is a common way doctors find out more about a person’s allergies.
Find out what the experts have to say.
Milk is in all kinds of foods, even things like baked goods. So what should a person who’s allergic to milk do?
Quick action is essential during a serious allergic reaction. It helps to remind yourself of action steps so they become second nature if there’s an emergency. Here’s what to do.
A person with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This reaction can seem scary, but the good news is it can be treated.
Fish allergy can cause a serious reaction. Find out how to keep kids safe.
Soy is found in many foods and it’s a common food allegy. Find out how to help kids with an allergy stay safe.
Wheat allergy can cause serious reactions. Find out how to help kids with an allergy stay safe.
Doctors are diagnosing more and more people with food allergies. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with food allergies can make a big difference in preventing serious illness.
Struggling with strawberries? Petrified of peanuts? Sorry you ate shellfish? Maybe you have a food allergy. Find out more in this article for kids.
With preparation and education, a child with a food allergy can stay safe at school.
Shellfish allergy can cause serious reactions. Find out common symptoms of allergic reactions and how to respond.
Food allergies can cause serious and even deadly reactions in kids, so it’s important to know how to feed a child with food allergies and to prevent reactions.
Kids with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The good news is that when treated properly, anaphylaxis can be managed.
Living with an egg allergy means you have to be aware of what you’re eating and read food labels carefully. Here are some tips for teens who have an egg allergy.
A growing number of kids are allergic to nuts and peanuts. Find out more about this problem and how allergic kids can stay healthy.
Doctors use several different types of allergy tests, depending on what a person may be allergic to. Find out what to expect from allergy tests.
Babies sometimes have an allergic reaction to eggs. If that happens, they can’t eat eggs for a while. But the good news is that most kids outgrow this allergy by age 5.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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