April 04, 2017

Peanut allergies are one of the most widespread food allergies in the United States—in fact about 3 million Americans can’t consume peanuts. Peanuts are not actually nuts but legumes, like soybeans and peas. All other nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds, etc) are tree nuts.

While other types of allergies may wear off later in life, peanut allergies tend to stick with a person forever, with only 20% of people outgrowing them. Peanut allergies are one of the most common food allergies in children, along with milk and eggs.

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With food allergies, your immune system overreacts to something harmless. You respond to normal foods as if they are foreign invaders. As a result, the body releases the chemical histamine and other compounds that can cause breathing trouble, throat swelling, itchy lips, nausea, and vomiting.

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The causes of food allergies aren't known, but they are more common in families with other allergic conditions, like asthma and eczema. When someone reacts to peanuts, it can become a life-threatening event, especially if the person goes into anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a dangerous multi-system reaction that can cause trouble breathing, a drop in blood pressure, and shock. However, rapid treatment with an epinephrine injection can reverse anaphylaxis. Autoinjectors (such as the brand name injector is EpiPen) should be carried by people at high risk as a safety precaution. It’s also important to avoid any foods that contain peanuts. Be sure to read packaged food labels for red flags, including whether a product was processed near peanuts.