Living with a peanut allergy

Classic lunchtime staple PB&J is off the table, but living with a peanut allergy can be more complicated than that, too.

What is a peanut allergy?

Peanut allergies happen when the body’s immune system overreacts to the harmless proteins found in peanuts, fighting them off with an immune system response that can, itself, be dangerous and uncomfortable.

Where else are peanuts found?

Aside from more obvious places where peanuts can come up in a regular diet – everything from peanut butter to peanut sauce to so many candy bars. Depending on the severity of your child’s allergies, though, it may also be necessary to read the fine print of the ingredient list, and not just the headline. For some children with very severe allergies, even very small or trace amounts of peanuts can be dangerous, so it’s important to talk to your child’s allergist about the degree of your child’s allergies, and to get comfortable reading all the way through the ingredients lists of all foods your child comes in contact with.

If your child’s allergist recommends avoiding foods that may have come into contact with peanuts or peanut products during production, your family may have to end up avoiding tree nuts (which are often processed in the same facilities) and many prepared baked goods and snack foods (which are often prepared in the same facilities as products which have peanut ingredients). Foods that are produced in places which may also process peanuts or peanut products often list this information on the packaging, but they are not required to. If you are unsure about a product, you can always make a call to the company for more detailed questions about their ingredients.

How is a peanut allergy treated?

Peanut allergies are one of the allergies that are most likely to cause severe reactions, especially anaphylaxis, which means that children who are diagnosed with peanut allergies are more likely to be prescribed epinephrine, or adrenaline, which is delivered with an epinephrine auto-injector, or an EpiPen.

EpiPens should be stored at room-temperature, and should avoid extremes of heat and cold. Many families find it helpful to have several EpiPens – say, one for home, one for daycare, and one to carry around throughout the day.

Since peanut allergies are some of the most commonly severe allergies, it’s less likely that your child’s allergist will simply prescribe an antihistamine, but if they do, it’s just as important to carry the antihistamine with your child at all times.

  • Kate Grimshaw. “Food Labelling for the Food Allergic Consumer.” Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. University of Nebraska, November 2013. Retrieved November 21 2015.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Peanut allergy.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, June 11 2015. Retrieved November 21 2017.
  • “Peanut Allergy.”  Food Allergy Research & Education. Food Allergy Research & Education. Retrieved November 21 2017. 

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