Peanut allergy symptoms
Wouldn’t it be helpful if there was a blueprint for peanut allergy symptoms? But peanut allergy varies from person to person. Also, your symptoms may not be the same as last time if you have another allergic reaction. You might get a rash or stomach cramps. But it could be a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis which affects your whole body. And that’s a medical emergency.
Talk to your GP if you think you might have a peanut allergy. They’ll make the diagnosis (or rule it out) and tell you how to be ready for any kind of symptom. That might include wearing an allergy bracelet or necklace and carrying emergency medication.
This article covers the range of peanut allergy symptoms and other info we hope you’ll find helpful:
- Mild to moderate symptoms of peanut allergy and how to treat them
- Symptoms of a severe systemic allergic reaction to peanuts and what to do if it happens
- How not to trigger peanut allergy symptoms if you can help it
You’ll also find out what goes into having peanut allergy confirmed.
Mild to moderate peanut allergy symptoms
An allergic reaction can start seconds after you come into contact with peanut. Or it could take up to two hours. These are some of the milder peanut allergy symptoms to look out for:
- A raised, itchy red rash (hives) – sometimes the skin can turn red and itchy but not raised
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Swelling of the face, mouth, throat or other parts of the body
- Difficulty swallowing
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- Feeling dizzy and lightheaded
- Feeling sick (nausea) or vomiting
- Abdominal pain or diarrhoea
- Hay fever-like symptoms such as sneezing or itchy eyes
A tingly mouth, lips or throat can also be a symptom of oral allergy syndrome (OAS), also known as pollen food syndrome (PFS). Some people who are allergic to birch pollen have a cross-reaction when they eat peanut. That’s because proteins trigger allergies and these two substances contain proteins that look a lot alike.
But don’t assume that’s what it is. Always go and see your GP if you get anything that might be peanut allergy symptoms.
Relief for milder symptoms of peanut allergy
Antihistamine can help block the histamine your body releases as part of an allergic reaction. You may find it eases milder itching, redness and hives. Ask your pharmacist for advice about the different types of antihistamine available over the counter. And remember, this is not a treatment for the most serious peanut allergy symptoms.
Peanut allergy symptoms from anaphylaxis
Seek medical attention straight away if you recognise these peanut allergy symptoms and they’re affecting more than one part of your body. It could be anaphylaxis:
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
- Difficulties with breathing, such as fast or shallow breathing
- A fast heartbeat
- Clammy skin
- Confusion and anxiety
- Collapsing or losing consciousness
A sense of impending doom can be an early warning sign of anaphylactic shock. The flow of blood carrying oxygen around your body slows and it can be life-threatening.
Emergency treatment for peanut allergy
Epinephrine, which is another name for the hormone adrenaline, is the prescribed treatment for anaphylaxis. It comes in auto-injectors for you to self-administer as soon as you realise you’re having a severe systemic allergic reaction. The advice is to keep two auto-injectors with you at all times if you have a peanut allergy.
Your child may be looking after their own adrenaline auto-injectors when they get to secondary school. Until then, make sure they know how to get help quickly in the event of a severe reaction.
Anaphylaxis can cause a second wave of symptoms up to eight hours later. So go to hospital even if you start to feel better after using the auto-injector.
Am I at risk of serious peanut allergy symptoms?
Anyone who’s allergic to peanuts could have anaphylaxis. Factors that make it more likely include a family history of severe systemic allergic reactions. Also stress, illness and certain medications. Some peanut proteins are more closely linked to systemic allergic reactions. A component blood test will show if any of them could be your trigger and help your GP or assess your risk level.
Allergy immunotherapy may be able to reduce the risk of you having severe reactions. The aim is that repeated tiny doses of peanut allergen over several years desensitise your immune system. Ask your GP or allergist if this treatment might be right for you. You would still have to avoid peanuts.
Peanut allergy symptoms: Getting a diagnosis
Be ready to talk to your GP in detail about your symptoms. They’ll also want to know your medical history and if there’s allergy in your family. The next step is likely to be peanut allergy testing: a skin prick test, allergy blood tests or an oral food challenge. You may need more than one test if the results of the first, usually a skin prick test, are inconclusive.
About 20% of children with peanut allergy outgrow it. Your child’s healthcare provider may suggest an oral food challenge to see if that’s the case.
How not to trigger peanut allergy symptoms
There isn’t a cure for allergy. So the medical advice is “strict avoidance” of peanut, which can be a challenge as it’s a common ingredient. By law, manufacturers must list peanut clearly on food packaging. That’s helpful when it’s you doing the shopping. But also think about the different ways accidental exposure could happen. That includes at home if not everyone is allergic to peanut and it isn’t banned from your kitchen:
- Do your best to know what you’re eating
- Read food labels and read them again so you can avoid peanut-containing foods
- Avoid tree nuts too in case of cross-contact with peanut in the manufacturing process
- Tell restaurants, airlines and anywhere else you’re going to eat a meal that you have a peanut allergy
- Make sure friends understand that you can’t come into contact at all with peanut – even the tiniest smear of peanut butter
- Discourage kids with peanut allergy from sharing snacks and treats
- Avoid spreading allergenic peanut proteins
- Make it a habit to eat at the table and use a plate
- Clean kitchen surfaces where there might be peanut residue with a disposable wipe
- Same goes for pans and utensils if you cook with peanut
- And avoid picking them up accidentally too
- Don't share cups or cutlery as peanut protein can linger in saliva
- Also warn your date that you can’t kiss anyone after they’ve been eating peanuts
- Don’t let other people’s dogs lick you unless you know for sure their owner buys peanut-free pet food and treats
- Avoid cosmetics, toiletries and medicine containing peanut oil (although the risk of peanut allergy symptoms is thought to be low except with unrefined peanut oil)
- Wash your hands if there's any chance of skin contact with peanut and don't put them near your face
Your GP will give you more advice on avoiding peanuts and peanut allergy symptoms. Also, whether certain foods could cause an allergic response because they contain a protein similar to peanut protein. Lupin is related to and cross-reacts with peanut at a high rate. It’s another priority allergen covered by labelling regulations.
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