It can happen when a person is exposed to peanut proteins. The body mistakes the proteins as being harmful. This makes the immune system send chemicals into the blood that cause the response to happen.
Exposure to peanuts can happen by:
- Eating peanuts, foods with peanuts, or foods that were around peanuts
- Touching peanuts
- Breathing in bits of peanuts, such as peanut flour
Peanut allergy often starts when a person is a child. It may also start or carry on when a person is an adult. Things that may put you at risk are:
- Other allergies, such as eczema or hay fever
- Having people in your family who have allergies
- Delayed start to eating peanuts during childhood
Problems may be:
- An itchy skin rash
- Swelling of the lips, mouth, or throat
- Coughing or wheezing
- A change in voice
- Belly cramps
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Anaphylaxis is a response that can be deadly. It may cause:
- Problems breathing
- Chest tightness
- Pale skin or blue skin
- Loss of consciousness
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
You will be tested with a:
- Skin prick test to look for a skin response when exposed to peanut proteins
- Blood test to look for an antibody that shows up when you are exposed to peanut proteins
You may need to see a doctor who treats allergies.
People with a severe response may need medical care right away.
A mild peanut allergy can be managed. Options are:
The best way to manage this allergy is to avoid peanuts, foods with peanuts, and foods that may have been around peanuts. Always read food labels. Do this even if you do not think a food has peanuts in it. Most labels will state whether the factory where a food was made also works with peanuts. Always ask for the items in homemade foods to check peanuts or peanut oil. Ask if the item was made with kitchen tools that have come in contact with peanuts.
Medicine can ease symptoms. It should only be taken if a person is exposed to peanuts by accident. They may be:
- Antihistamines to decrease swelling and itching
- Corticosteroids to treat severe swelling and itching
People with severe reactions may need epinephrine. It is injected into the thigh. It needs to be carried at all times.
To lower the chance of peanut allergy:
- Women who are pregnant and do not have a peanut allergy may want to eat peanuts.
- Babies at high risk of peanut allergy should be introduced to peanuts between ages 4 and 11 months. Babies with eczema or egg allergy should see an allergist before having peanuts. They may already be allergic.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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