10 Surprising Facts About Peanut Allergies
Allergic to peanuts? You're definitely in good company. Not only is it one of the most widespread food allergies in the United States, but it's also more difficult to outgrow than milk and egg allergies. Yikes! And, scarily enough, in recent years it's been gaining momentum, affecting more individuals than ever before. One could even consider it to be an epidemic.
That's according to a new study by the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital. Researchers found that from 1997 to 2008, peanut allergies tripled from affecting 1 in 250 children to 1 in 70 children.
"It really is almost an epidemic," Scott Sicherer, MD, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, told CNBC's On the Money. "It's impossible to deny an increase, even with anecdotal reports from school nurses," he added, pointing out that "about two (children) per classroom have food allergies. It's not just our imagination."
RELATED: 20 Ways to Stop Allergies
The best and easiest way to keep any members of your family with peanut allergies safe is to be as knowledgeable and aware as possible so that you don't find yourself in a dangerous situation. Here and in the video above, 10 surprising facts you may not have known about peanut allergies to help you stay informed.
1. Three million people in the U.S. are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.
2. Peanuts are not actually nuts but legumes like soybeans and peas. All other nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds, etc.) are tree nuts.
3. Most people have peanut allergies for life, but 20% of children outgrow them.
4. Peanut allergies are one of the most common food allergies in children, along with milk and eggs.
5. With food allergies, your immune system overreacts to something harmless. The body responds to normal foods and food proteins as if they are dangerous foreign invaders.
7. When an allergic person comes into contact with peanut proteins their immune system releases histamine and other compounds that can cause breathing trouble, throat swelling, itchy lips, nausea, and vomiting.
8. Food allergies can be life-threatening. Known as anaphylaxis, these dangerous multi-system reactions can cause trouble breathing, a drop in blood pressure, and shock.
9. Rapid treatment with an epinephrine injection can reverse anaphylaxis. This can be done with autoinjectors (like those sold under the brand name EpiPen).
10. There are ways to reduce peanut allergic reactions. Oral immunotherapy involves feeding tiny amounts of peanut protein to patients to help develop tolerance. This can be dangerous, so it must be done under an allergist's supervision.
Although the National Institutes of Health encourages children around the age of four to six months be introduced to peanut-containing foods, the best way to prevent severe reaction is to avoid any foods that contain peanuts if proven to be allergic. Always be sure to read packaged food labels for red flags, including whether a product was processed near peanuts.
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