The peanut is part of the legume family, as are peas, beans and liquorice. It bears its fruit in shells and develops underground. For those who are not allergic to them, peanuts are an extremely healthy food, which are very rich in protein.
Peanuts are one of many foods that can cause severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis (for more details on anaphylaxis read our food allergies section).
Peanut allergies are an inconvenience but they are manageable and with extra care and vigilance you can avoid peanuts and therefore avoid the associated symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
Mild symptoms could include itching and swelling in the mouth, rashes on the body, nausea and vomiting.
Serious symptoms include a drop in blood pressure (this will make you go weak), severe asthma or it may cause your throat to close, which could then lead to suffocation.
Symptoms of a peanut allergy can occur within a few minutes or after a few hours after contact or consumption of a peanut.
How will I know if I have had a reaction?
This often can be a very difficult question to answer. Severe symptoms are very obvious but mild symptoms can sometimes be hard to detect and may not raise any major concerns. It is important that if you do suffer any symptoms, no matter how mild that you contact your doctor for further advice, as next time you might suffer a severe allergic reaction.
After you have been diagnosed with a peanut allergy the only cure at present, is total avoidance of all peanuts and products containing peanuts.
Manufacturers are beginning to recognise the potential dangers, a person allergic to peanuts faces. Therefore most foods containing peanuts are now clearly labelled ‘this product may contain nuts’.
If you are unsure about the possible presence of peanuts in any foods you purchase and there is no advisory label, then it would be advisable to check the contents with the manufacturer. When eating out, remember to ask if any of the dishes you have ordered contain peanuts or peanut products. Don’t worry about causing a fuss, explain what peanuts do to you and if you are not happy with their answer, choose something else on the menu, or eat somewhere else. Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants are best avoided.
Children and peanut allergies
An informed parent doesn’t need to live in fear if their child suffers from a peanut allergy. The more you understand about the situation the better you will feel. Remember, your child’s allergy will travel everywhere with them, to school, to friends houses’, to parties and on holiday. If you tell everyone about the situation you are minimizing your child’s risk of an allergic reaction.
Foods to watch out for:
Many unsuspecting foods and snacks contain nuts, these may include:
Take time to check all food ingredients thoroughly.
Kissing – ask your partner if they have been eating nuts that day, a reaction doesn’t necessarily mean you have to eat the food yourself, bodily contact can also cause a reaction.
Alcohol – extra care needs to be taken when consuming alcohol, as your judgement of certain foods can sometimes be altered.
Chocolates – don’t be embarrassed about saying no, if you are unsure about the ingredients.