Among all foods, peanuts are one of the most common food allergen for people. Also, among people with food allergies, those with allergies to peanuts most commonly suffer from allergic reactions because peanuts find their way into foods without being noticed. For instance, chili may contain peanuts because ground peanuts make it thicker in consistency, so people with peanut allergies accidentally take in peanuts from foods they won’t imagine containing it.
Peanuts are not actually true nuts or tree nuts as opposed to popular belief. Although peanuts are not true nuts, people with peanut allergies may also develop true nut allergies because of the same structure. For this reason, people with peanut allergies should also avoid eating tree nuts such as cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamias, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and Brazil nuts.
Causes of peanut Allergies
Even small amounts of peanuts can trigger an allergic reaction, but peanut allergies are mainly caused by ingestion of which and not through inhalation of the small particles. Inhaling or smelling peanuts also won’t trigger an allergic reaction, but any small amount ingested through foods can actually trigger a life-threatening reaction.
Symptoms of Peanut Allergies
Like all food and drug allergies, allergic reactions to peanuts are developed from the action of the immune system. Once peanuts are ingested, the body sees it as an outsider or a foreign body. Subsequently, the body reacts by producing IgE or immunoglobulin E as well as anaphylatoxins. These chemicals stimulate the release of histamine and other chemical mediators from the degranulation of mast cells. The chemical mediators cause vasodilation and bronchoconstriction yielding the following symptoms:
• Difficulty of breathing
• Hoarseness of voice
• Coughing (dry during the initial phase progressing to congestive condition)
• Chest tightness
• Abdominal pain
• Hives or rash formation on the body
• Itchy and watery eyes and eyelids
• Angioedema or swelling of the face, lips, throat and skin
Serious cases of peanut allergies or allergic reactions that are not managed promptly may lead to anaphylactic reaction that can possibly lead to anaphylactic shock as manifested by an abnormally low blood pressure as well as severe respiratory compromise that can be fatal.
Treatments of Peanut Allergy
The most common management of peanut allergy is avoidance of foods containing it. However, since some foods don’t seem to contain them, but actually have peanuts as ingredients, people may have difficulty avoiding peanuts. Thereby, some management are catered towards managing the symptoms as well as totally eradicating peanut allergies. Common treatments include:
• Antihistamine administration
During the early stage of mild peanut allergy (such presence of itchiness, rashes and watery eyes), antihistamines are usually administered to limit or stop the effects of histamine in the body.
• Epinephrine administration
Epinephrine is an emergency drug administered to people developing anaphylactic reactions. Epinephrine rapidly reverses the severe allergic reaction to prevent fatal events. Most people who know that they are allergic to peanuts or any types of foods usually are prescribed with epinephrine pens so they can just inject themselves with the drug in case life-threatening reactions happen.
• Systematic desensitization
Systematic desensitization is the process of exposing the allergic individual to a specific allergen to make the body get used to the presence of the substance; thereby, relieving allergies. In peanut allergy, people are given small amounts of peanuts and gradually increasing the amount until the person is already used to it.
Peanut allergies are one of the most common allergies affecting people all over the world and there have been many successful people in treating the condition using desensitization. Nevertheless, prevention is still better than cure so make sure to avoid peanuts and all peanut-containing products as much as possible.