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What Parents Need to Know About Peanut Allergies

Cartoon Stop Peanuts SignBy Dr. Tania Elliott

Peanut allergy is on the rise and has been a hot topic in the news these days. There have been some recent advances in the diagnosis, treatment, and even prevention of peanut allergy over the last year that have challenged previous beliefs.

Here is what parents need to know about peanut allergies:

  • Believe it or not a peanut is not actually a nut, it is a legume, more closely related to beans. However, people with peanut allergy have about a 30 percent chance of having a tree nut (almond, walnut, cashew, hazelnut, pecan, brazil nut, pistachio) allergy as well. Often times, peanuts are manufactured in the same manufacturing plant as tree nuts, so there is a risk of contamination. Be sure to read labels, and know your “nuts.”

  • Peanut Allergy affects about 2 percent of the population
  • About 20 percent of people can grow out of their peanut allergy
  • There is a new test available, called a Component Test that can detect the likelihood of a risk for a severe allergic reaction in a known peanut allergic patient.
  • Make friends with your local chef. If going out to eat, be sure that the wait staff and cooks know that your child has a peanut allergy so that they can prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen.
  • Peanuts can be found in many foods and candies, especially chocolate candy. Check all labels carefully. Contact the manufacturer if you have questions.
  • Peanuts can cause severe allergic reactions. If prescribed, carry epinephrine at all times. Have an action plan ready in case of an allergic reaction. Remember, that Epinephrine is the only medication that can stop an allergic reaction from progressing. Antihistamines, while they may control itching, will not stop an allergic reaction from becoming life threatening. Speak with a doctor on demand provider to create an emergency food allergy action plan.
  • Although there is currently no cure for peanut allergy, studies of oral peanut immunotherapy look promising towards a cure in the future.

One final note. Previously, it was thought that delayed introduction of peanut into the diet could help to prevent peanut allergies. However, a recent study called the LEAP study, published in early 2015 found that early introduction of peanut into the diet can actually decrease the chances of developing peanut allergy!

At this time, the treatment for peanut allergy is strict peanut avoidance and recognizing the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction. Have your epinephrine autoinjector and action plan ready. Doctor on Demand is here to help with any questions.

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A great resource full of support groups and helpful tips for families with peanut allergy is www.foodallergy.org.

Tania Elliott

Dr. Elliott is the Assistant Medical Director of Doctor On Demand. Dr. Elliott is a graduate of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and fellowship in Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Winthrop University Hospital on Long Island. She is board certified in both specialties.
Dr. Elliott has a commitment to keeping up with the most current advances in medicine. She is a firm believer in providing her patients with clear, useful information and resources so that they can be empowered to make healthy lifestyle choices. Dr. Elliott has appeared on multiple television shows including The Doctors, ABC World News, CBS, and Fox News.