What Are the Symptoms of a Peanut Allergy?
A Common Food Allergy
Peanuts are one of the most common causes of serious allergic reactions. Even small particles of peanuts can be enough to trigger an allergic reaction.
Click through the slideshow for information on how to recognize peanut allergy symptoms, spot early warning signs of an allergic reaction, and adjust to living with a peanut allergy.
Who Is Most Likely to Suffer from a Peanut Allergy?
Children are most likely to suffer from a peanut allergy. Many people see their symptoms become less serious as they get older. Still, an allergy can reoccur.
People who have been diagnosed with another food allergy are more likely to develop additional allergies than those without food allergies. If food allergies run in the family, your risk for developing an allergy increases.
People with eczema also tend to develop food allergies.
Mild Symptoms of a Peanut Allergy
Typically, an allergic reaction to peanuts will become obvious within minutes of contact.
Some symptoms can be quite subtle, so learning to recognize them is important.
Mild symptoms can include:
- itchy skin
- hives, which can appear as small spots or large welts
- an itching or tingling sensation in or around the mouth or throat
- a runny or congested nose
Obvious Symptoms of a Peanut Allergy
Some peanut allergy symptoms can be quite violent and unpleasant. However, they might not represent a serious health risk.
Some common symptoms include:
- swollen lips or tongue
- stomach cramps
- swollen face or limbs
You may also experience a feeling of breathlessness. Due to the distressing nature of the symptoms, a sense of panic is normal.
Signs of a Serious Allergic Reaction
People who suffer from allergies run the risk of anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal condition. In addition to the allergy symptoms previously mentioned, signs of anaphylaxis can include:
- swollen throat
- constricted airway
- severe drop in blood pressure
- racing pulse
- feeling dizzy or passing out
Seek emergency medical help if you or someone you know is suffering from anaphylaxis.
What to Do for a Mild Reaction
A minor allergic reaction is unlikely to be life threatening, but it should still be taken seriously.
The reaction can usually be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines. These dugs will help relieve symptoms like the sensation of itching or hives. Antihistamines won’t prevent future attacks, so take steps to avoid peanuts.
Follow up with your doctor if you experience even minor allergic reactions—especially if you haven't been diagnosed with a peanut allergy before.
Help! I Think I'm Having a Severe Reaction
A severe allergic reaction should be treated as a medical emergency. The reaction can be life threatening if the symptoms aren’t treated quickly.
If you or someone you know is suffering a severe reaction or anaphylaxis, you’ll need an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline). If you don’t have an auto injector, monitor the sufferer's vital signs and general condition until you reach the emergency room.
Swift action can reduce the severity of symptoms and possible health complications.
Peanut Allergy: Foods to Avoid
Any product containing peanuts is clearly out of bounds for those with a peanut allergy. However, peanuts or peanut particles can be hiding in some less obvious food sources. If you suffer from a peanut allergy, you may want to cut out these foods entirely or at least take a closer look:
- takeout food like Chinese, Thai, and Mexican can contain peanuts
- cake and pastries
- egg rolls
- pasta sauce
- natural and artificial flavorings
- ice cream and frozen yogurt
Living with a Peanut Allergy
Cut out foods that contain peanuts to help prevent an allergic reaction. Not sharing food is another easy way to reduce allergy risk. Of course, because peanuts are so common, avoiding all contact may be impossible.
Wearing an allergy alert bracelet can help others take action if you suffer an attack.
If you have been given medication like antihistamines or an epinephrine autoinjector, carry it at all times to ensure you’re prepared in case of an emergency.
- Anaphylaxis Emergency Action Plan (2013, July), American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from http://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%20Documents/Libraries/Anaphylaxis-Emergency-Action-Plan.pdf.
- Anaphylaxis Symptoms and Diagnosis (n.d.), American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/anaphylaxis.aspx#Tab2.
- Food Allergy: Tips to Remember (n.d.), American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/food-allergy.aspx.
- Peanut Allergy: Coping and Support (2012, June 27), Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/peanut-allergy/DS00710/DSECTION=coping-and-support.
- Peanut Allergy Diet (n.d.), John Hopkins Medical. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/allergy_and_asthma/peanut_allergy_diet_85,P00028/.
- Peanut Allergy: Tests and Diagnosis (2012, June 27), Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/peanut-allergy/DS00710/DSECTION=tests-and-diagnosis.