Confessions of a Peanut Allergist

Today, after suffering from an accidentally self-induced allergic reaction to some sort of nut in fancy cookies offered to me by a dear friend, I found myself curious about the intricacies of my unfortunate genetic predicament. So, ever-so-studiously punching terms into what I fondly call the University of Google, here is what I came up with:

  • There are no known causes for peanut or tree nut causes, HOWEVER:
    • New research shows that there is a correlation between soy milk or formula consumption during the first two years of life and the development of a peanut allergy.
    • This new research has challenged the widely believed theories that a) peanut allergies are related to environmental factors and also related to b) maternal exposure to peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • While affecting approximately 2% of the population, peanut allergies happen to be one of the most common causes of food-allergy related death.
    • It is the 3rd most common allergy in young children,
    • And the 2nd most common food allergy in adults.
    • Prevalence seems to have sharply risen in recent years.
  • Reactions can range anywhere from mild to fatal, but they tend to be more severe than allergic reactions to other foods.
    • There are approximately 150-200 deaths from expose a year.
    • Most cases portray a biphasic reaction (An allergic reaction that has two stages. Often the first “wave” of symptoms will be under control; however, one to three hours later the symptoms may return).
  • Generally thought of as a life-long, persistent allergy (as opposed to certain allergies that tend to fade over time, such as lactose intolerance).
  • The symptoms of peanut allergies include:
    • Severe, widespread rash
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Itching or tingling around the mouth and throat
    • Digestive problems (nausea, vomiting, cramping, etc.)
    • Anaphylaxis
  • The best treatment option is avoidance, although in today’s society peanuts can be found in the most unexpected places. The key is to be vigilant.
    • Research has been done on types of immunotherapy, which many hope can provide a cure to peanut allergies.
    • If a patient becomes anaphylactic during a reaction, the first response should be a quick injection of an epinephrine and also a trip to the emergency room.

I learned most of this information from firsthand experience, and I find it necessary to point out that children with food allergies should not be treated too differently from children who are lucky enough to not have any food allergies. When I was in middle school, there was a specified table for people who had a peanut allergy, lovingly dubbed “the peanut table”. Separating children from their peers because of something they can’t control? I always felt like an outcast when forced to sit there. Don’t let your children feel like they are freaks by over-emphasizing their allergy. Obviously, it is important to be careful when you are eating out with your child, or when your child is at a birthday party, but it is even more important for them to feel like they fit in. Teach your child to always make sure of the ingredients in their food when they are out, and also to always carry some form of Benadryl (the most convenient kind for me are the Benadryl tongue strips, but I like the pill form as well). For more severe allergies, request that the food be prepared in a different setting than any surfaces that have been touched by peanuts (or any other allergen). Learn what safe foods are available to your child, but don’t limit the recipes. There are plenty of delicious peanut-free recipes out there! Last but not least, let your child live their life. As a 17-year veteran of my allergy, I have definitely learned about the right and wrong foods to ingest, and also the action plan I need to follow if I ever happen to ingest peanuts (rinse rigorously, take Benadryl). Happy eating!



Jamie Imperial is a sixteen going on seventeen year old aspiring journalist with a penchant for putting snarky comments into everyday conversation. She enjoys her daily hippogriff rides, watching/critiquing movies and reading books. She probably won’t text you back.
Sources: , , , (Wood-_Peanut_Allergy_DC_Childrens.pdf) ,