Community Health & Environment

Peanut Allergy Information from NEW Health

by Mary Wright, RN, health educator at North End Waterfront Health

Peanut allergy is the most common of all food allergies. People who are allergic to peanuts are allergic to the peanut protein, even in small amounts. This type of allergy is lifelong, not one a child will outgrow.

Exposure to peanuts can occur in different ways:

  • Direct contact. This is the most common cause of an allergic reaction to peanuts and happens when peanuts or foods containing peanuts are eaten. It can also happen when peanuts come in direct contact with skin.
  • Cross-contact. This is the unintended introduction of peanuts during food  processing or production.
  • Inhalation.  This reaction occurs if you inhale dust or aerosols containing
    peanuts.

The allergic reaction to peanuts usually occurs within minutes of the exposure. The symptoms can vary from mild to severe. They include:

  • Skin reactions, such as hives, redness, or swelling
  • Itching or tingling around the throat and mouth
  • Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or stomach cramps
  • Tightening of the throat
  • Shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Runny nose

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.

The symptoms of anaphylaxis are:

  • The above symptoms plus
  • Constriction of airway
  • Swelling of the throat, which makes breathing difficult
  • A severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness

If any of these symptoms occur, treatment with an epi-pen is needed. Dial 911 for further emergency treatment.

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