Peanut is one of the most common food allergies in both children and adults. It is a very prevalent disease especially in western countries including Australia, where it is estimated affect 1-2% of the population.
Symptoms of peanut allergy are like other food-related allergic reactions and include various combinations of hives, facial and tongue swelling, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting, feeling dizzy or passing out. Deaths have been reported, but fortunately are rare.
It is important to confirm peanut allergy and screen for possible associated food allergies. Your Allergist can help you with the diagnosis by arranging a skin prick test or blood tests. Sometimes a supervised food challenge is needed to confirm or rule out peanut allergy.
Once diagnosed, your Allergist will prepare a management plan that may include prescription of an adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen).
As peanut allergy can be associated with serious, potentially life-threatening reactions, it very important for patients to avoid peanut, including trace amounts.
The following are common sources of peanut, and should be avoided:
Ingestion of peanut is the obvious and usual source of exposure but in highly sensitized individuals, other potential sources include
Skin contact – some cosmetic products contain peanut oil and should be avoided
Saliva – for example kissing a patient after eating peanut products
Inhalation – for example when cooking with peanuts
Unfortunately, very few patients will outgrow peanut allergy naturally, and for most it is an ongoing issue for most of their lives. Therefore, long-term avoidance and risk behaviour management is required.