By Dr. Charles Ison
The latest research shows that of the small number of children afflicted with peanut allergies approximately 15-22% may outgrow this allergy, often before their teen years.
A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and Arkansas Children’s Hospital found that some children completely lost their potentially serious or life-threatening allergy to peanuts.
Also, among those children who “outgrew” the allergy, there was a low risk of allergy recurrence.
But all too many of those afflicted with peanut allergies face a life of careful eating.
A good source of nutrients, peanuts are harmless to most children.
But to approximately 0.8% of kids in the U.S., peanuts cause allergies that can trigger reactions that can be severe.
As in all allergies, the immune system of the child with peanut allergies mistakenly thinks that peanut proteins are dangerous and must be stopped from entering the body.
Peanut products can cause reactions by being eaten, inhaled or even by touching the skin.
Reactions usually occur within minutes of exposure.
Mild to moderate allergic reactions to peanuts include runny nose; itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat; tightening of the throat; shortness of breath or wheezing; nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps or diarrhea; and redness, swelling, hives or eczema of the skin.
Severe reaction to peanuts is called anaphylaxis and can be life-threatening.
Sometimes before symptoms begin, a person will have a feeling of impending doom.
Other, more moderate symptoms also can occur before the severe reaction.
Anaphylaxis symptoms include eyelid and lip swelling, swelling of the throat, respiratory distress, airway constriction, rapid pulse, shock, dizziness and loss of consciousness.
Certain people are at risk for developing a peanut allergy. Infants and toddlers are because they have immature digestive immature digestive systems, as are individuals with a family history of allergies.
Those who have other allergic diseases (such as eczema), other food allergies, or who were once allergic to peanuts and outgrew the allergy are at risk.
Peanut allergies are diagnosed by keeping food diaries (so that reactions can be paired with what was recently eaten), elimination diets (where peanuts are taken out of the diet and then added back to look for a reaction), skin testing and blood testing.
Mild to moderate peanut allergies are treated with antihistamines for exposures, but mainly by carefully avoiding peanut products (reading labels is important).
Those who get anaphylaxis from peanuts also use an epinephrine autoinjector and a trip to the emergency room as treatments if a reaction happens.
Children with this severe allergy should have a plan (written for a child’s caregivers) and a medical alert bracelet to inform others of the allergy.
In the meantime, it is a good idea to read labels, ask questions and decline foods if the ingredients are not known.
As little as 1/1000th of a peanut can cause an allergic reaction.