The incidence of peanut allergy is on the rise in the United States. Let us take a look at the symptoms and causes of this condition, which is highly common and dangerous.
Peanut allergy is a result of an abnormal reaction of the immune system, which identifies peanuts and peanut products as harmful to the body. In such cases, the immune system produces antibodies and chemicals including histamine, which can affect the skin, eyes, nose, airways, intestinal tract, lungs, and the blood vessels.
The severity of such allergic reactions may vary from one person to another. While ingestion of peanuts is the most common route of exposure, some people cannot tolerate the smell of peanuts that may trigger allergic reactions. Inhalation of airborne particle of peanuts may also cause such reactions.
In most cases, peanut allergy develops in childhood. Some kids may outgrow the condition, as they grow, but there are chances of recurrence. Studies show that around 1% of the American population is affected by this condition, which can cause mild to severe symptoms.
Usually, allergic reactions develop within a few minutes, after exposure to peanuts or peanut products. The symptoms can range from mild stomach aches to anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition that can cause blockage of airways, hypotension, and even heart failure. The most common symptom is urticaria, which is also known as hives, and is characterized by dark red, raised, and itchy bumps on the skin.
Swelling of the lips, face, and throat, is also common. The affected person may also experience worsening of atopic eczema. Peanut allergy may trigger nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Other symptoms include tingling sensations in the mouth and throat, sneezing, runny nose, tightening of chest, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.
The most severe symptom is anaphylaxis, which is characterized by breathing trouble due to constriction of airways and a swollen throat; low blood pressure, shock, rapid pulse, and unconsciousness. The patient needs immediate treatment with epinephrine. If left untreated, this condition may lead to death, within a few hours. While some people develop mild to moderate symptoms, others experience severe ones. In some cases, mild or moderate symptoms may become severe within a few hours. Asthmatic people are more likely to suffer from severe symptoms of peanut allergy.
The exact cause for peanut allergy is still unknown. Some studies link the condition to genetics; as children with allergic first degree relatives are found to be more likely to develop peanut allergy. The condition is also linked to peanut exposure during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Exposure to soy products was cited as a cause for peanut allergy; but further studies rescinded this claim. According to some health experts, delay in introducing peanuts along with other foods may cause this allergy in kids.
Ingestion of peanuts or peanut products, direct skin contact, or inhalation of dust with peanut flour or peanut cooking oil spray, etc., are some of the common routes of exposure. If you are allergic to peanuts, there is a possibility of your child developing the condition. This is applicable, even if you are not allergic at present, but have had an episode of peanut allergy during childhood.
Go for an allergy test, and if it is positive; you must avoid exposure to peanut and peanut products. In case of any accidental ingestion of peanuts or inhalation of peanut flour, consult your health care provider, as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.