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Health Information For Teens
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.
Nut and peanut allergies can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis may begin with some of the same symptoms as a less severe reaction, but then quickly get worse, leading someone to have trouble breathing, feel lightheaded, or to pass out. If it is not treated right away, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening.
If you have a peanut or tree nut allergy (or any kind of serious food allergy), the doctor will want you to carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of an emergency.
An epinephrine (pronounced: eh-puh-NEH-frin) 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. Keep the epinephrine with you, not in a locker or in the nurse’s office.
Every second counts in an allergic reaction. If you start having serious allergic symptoms, like swelling of the mouth or throat or trouble breathing, use the epinephrine auto-injector right away. Also use it right away if your symptoms involve two different parts of the body, like hives with vomiting. Then call 911 and have someone take you to the emergency room. You need to be under medical supervision because even if the worst seems to have passed, a second wave of serious symptoms can happen.
The doctor can also give you an allergy action plan, which helps you prepare for, recognize, and treat an allergic reaction. Share the plan with anyone else who needs to know, such as relatives, school officials, and coaches. Also consider wearing a medical alert bracelet.
Keeping epinephrine on hand at all times should be just part of your action plan. It’s also a good idea to carry an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine as this can help treat mild allergy symptoms. But never use
as a replacement for epinephrine shot in life-threatening reactions. Always use the epinephrine shot as the first treatment.
If allergy skin testing shows that you have 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 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 label. Manufacturers of foods sold in the United States must state on their labels whether foods contain peanuts or tree nuts. Check the ingredients list first.
After checking the ingredients list, look on the label for phrases like these:
People who are allergic to nuts should avoid foods with these statements on the label. Although these foods might not use nut ingredients, the warnings are there to let people know the food may contain small traces of nuts. That can happen through something called “cross-contamination.” This is 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 you’ve eaten a food in the past, manufacturers sometimes change their processes — for example, switching suppliers to a company that uses shared equipment with nuts. Because ingredients can change, it’s important to read the label every time, even if the food was safe in the past. And two foods that seem the same might also have differences in how they’re made.
Here are other things to remember:
Living with a food allergy can seem hard at times. But as more and more people are diagnosed with food allergies, businesses and restaurants are increasingly aware of the risks they face.
If friends you’re visiting or eating lunch with don’t know about your food allergy, tell them in plenty of time to make some simple preparations (such as not sharing your drink after eating that peanut butter sandwich!). Chances are, they’ll understand. As your friends, they probably hope you’ll be as considerate when it comes to taking care of them!
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.
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.
Find out what the experts have to say.
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.
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.
Milk is in all kinds of foods, even things like baked goods. So what should a person who’s allergic to milk do?
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.
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.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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