What You Need to Know About Peanut Allergy

Peanut allergy can be life-threatening if not addressed properly. Knowing the most important facts about peanut allergy can go a long way in preparing you for a sudden attack and arming you with the knowledge that can save your life. 

What is a peanut allergy?

A peanut allergy is a type of food allergy marked by an abnormal immune response after exposure to one or more peanut proteins. If you have a family history of peanut allergy, your risk for having it also increases. 

The symptoms of peanut allergy usually kick in within two hours of consuming peanuts. These include:

  • Itchy sensation in the tongue, mouth, or throat
  • Swollen lips, face, and areas around the eyes
  • Reddish and itchy rash 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sneezing

Essential facts about peanut allergy

These are the most important facts that you need to know and remember about peanut allergy. Keep these facts in mind to help you prevent an allergy attack or deal with one properly when it happens.

1. Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in Australia.

30% of Australian children have a peanut allergy and 80% of these children will live with their peanut allergy for the rest of their life.

2. Peanut allergy is one of the most deadly food allergies.

While peanuts are some of the most common foods causing life-threatening allergic reactions, there are very few cases of children suffering from anaphylaxis due to peanut allergy in Australia.

3. Ingestion, skin contact or inhalation can trigger allergy symptoms including anaphylactic reaction.

Some children who ingest peanuts or peanut butter suffer from severe allergic reactions like swelling of the airways resulting in breathing difficulties. There are some who experience symptoms after making direct skin contact with peanuts or peanut-derived products. But for some, just the smell of peanuts (e.g., smelling a bottle of peanut oil) can be enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room.

4. Children with severe peanut allergies are more likely to live with it.

Good news for parents of children who experience milder allergy symptoms (e.g., swelling of face, lips, and eyes, vomiting, and abdominal pain) after getting exposed to peanuts: there’s a higher chance for them to outgrow their peanut allergy when they become teens.

But for children whose peanut allergy symptoms tend to be very serious (e.g., breathing problems, loss of consciousness), it is very likely that their peanut allergy will be a life-long condition.

What should I do when I have a peanut allergy attack?

The steps that you need to take during an allergy attack depends on the severity of your allergic reaction. These are the actions recommended by the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy.

For mild to moderate allergy attacks

  1. Ask someone to stay with you.
  2. Call and inform your family or emergency contact. If you can’t make a phone call yourself, ask the person staying with you to call them on your behalf.
  3. Find your adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen®).

For severe allergy attacks

It is critical that someone should be with you at all times when you are having a severe allergic reaction. These steps are only applicable if you are still conscious. 

  1. Ask someone to stay with you.
  2. Sit down if you find it difficult to breathe. Do not stand or walk.
  3. Find your adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen®) and use it immediately. If you can’t inject it yourself, ask your companion to inject it on your thigh.
  4. Dial 000 and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
  5. Call and inform your family or emergency contact. If you can’t make a phone call yourself, ask the person staying with you to call them on your behalf.

If you have lost consciousness during your allergic reaction, the person staying with you should follow these steps instead.

  1. Place your body in a recovery position.
  2. Look for your adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen®) and inject it on your thigh.
  3. Dial 000 and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
  4. Inform your family or emergency contact about the situation.
  5. If you are still unconscious after 5 minutes has passed, another adrenaline dose may be injected on your thigh.
  6. Bring you to the nearest hospital and monitor your condition for at least four hours.  

How can I prevent a peanut allergy attack?

Careless exposure to peanuts or peanut-derived products is usually the culprit behind a peanut allergy attack.

If you want to lower your risk of experiencing an allergic reaction from peanuts, follow these tips:

1. Avoid eating peanuts.

This is self-explanatory, but some people still end up ingesting peanuts and suffering the consequences. Following simple habits such as informing the host or server about your allergy when you are eating out and reading food labels carefully can go a long way in preventing an allergy attack. 

2. Educate yourself.

Read up on peanut allergy, work closely with your allergist, and soak up information from the experts about your condition. Do you know that arachis oil is another term for peanut oil? Are you aware that many Asian cuisines use various types of peanuts? Do you know that biscuits, ice cream, and potato chips have a high risk of cross-contamination from peanuts? 

3. Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces.

This will remove any traces of peanuts, peanut butter or peanut oil that you may end up ingesting later on. Frequently touched surfaces include doorknobs/door handles, chairs, tables, gadgets, remote controls, taps, toys, and utensils.

4. Cook and prepare your own food as much as possible.

One of the best ways to ensure your food doesn’t have any peanuts in it—or does not carry any cross-contamination risk—is to prepare it yourself.

5. Practise proper handwashing and eating habits.

Make it a habit to wash your hands before and after you eat your meals. Refrain from eating foods that you did not prepare yourself or with ingredients that you are unsure of. If your child is the one who has a peanut allergy, make sure you spend time with him or her to explain the importance of proper handwashing (i.e., wash hands thoroughly before and after eating) and eating (i.e., eat only what is from your lunch box) habits.

Need our help? 

Looking for safe food alternatives to peanuts? Our dietitians and nutritionists can help ensure your dietary requirements are met even with your condition. Book an appointment by phone on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday or send us an enquiry. Alternatively, check out our other food intolerances and allergies services here.