How to Remain Safe with a Peanut Allergy

Peanut allergies have become big health news in recent years, and it is hard not to find a day care or classroom that is not taking special precautions because of a peanut allergy within a group of children. The reason that this type of allergic reaction has received so much press and concern is because it can be severe enough to be potentially life-threatening for many suffering from this allergic condition. An allergic reaction occurs when the body's immune system reacts to fight off a harmless substance that the immune system has mistakenly identified as harmful. The body releases antibodies that contain chemicals like histamines to fight off the foreign substance. These chemicals can cause symptoms like runny nose, watery eyes, and hives. They can also result in more severe symptoms like swelling, increased heartbeat and difficulty breathing. This is when an allergic reaction can become dangerous to the point of being life threatening, and why peanut allergies have caused so much alarm with many parents, teachers and child care workers.

Identifying a Peanut Allergy

A peanut allergy can result in a mild bout of allergic symptoms, or the more dangerous allergic reaction that was previously referred to. Often it is found after eating a nut or a product containing peanuts, but it can also be diagnosed through blood or skin tests at your doctor's office. Peanut allergies are often hereditary, so if a parent suffers from this type of allergy, it is possible that his children will as well. Some will begin with a peanut intolerance, which is mostly a digestive reaction that will not involve the immune system. Peanut allergies affect more than three million people in this country, and only a small percentage will outgrow the symptoms with age. The most common treatment for this type of allergy is avoidance of the identified allergen. While this can be an effective way to prevent the symptoms, staying away from peanuts and peanut products can be easier said than done.

Hidden Culprits

While peanuts and peanut butter are obvious choices for products to avoid when treating a peanut allergy, there are many hidden allergens to watch out for as well. For example, peanut oil, which can bring on the same symptoms of a peanut allergy, is often used in restaurants for the deep-frying process since it is an oil that can withstand extremely high temperatures. Salad dressings can also contain peanut oil, and soups and stews often use peanut butter as a thickening agent. Other types of food to avoid are oriental foods, Indian foods and Thai foods that often use peanuts in one form or another in many recipes. Candy and baked goods can harbor hidden peanut sources as well, so make sure to always read labels and ingredient lists very carefully before eating any item that you are not sure of.

Peanut allergies can be potentially dangerous for some sufferers. The good news is that avoidance of the allergen is a good way to prevent symptoms and avoid problems.