Understanding Peanut Allergies

With Halloween right around the corner, one truly scary aspect of the holiday that people often overlook is the dangers of peanut allergies. Peanut allergies cause the most food-related deaths. Consider the following facts:

  • More than 3 million people in the United States are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts or both
  • 80% of people with peanut allergies will never outgrow it
  • From 1997 to 2007 the prevalence of food allergies increased almost 20% among children
  • Anaphylaxis (a potentially fatal allergic reaction) occurs in 20% of peanut-related allergic reaction

These statistics attest to how dangerous peanut allergies can be and why proper precautionary measures should be taken. During Halloween, there is an increase in peanut-related allergic reactions due to the increase of candy and treats consumed. Parents have a much more challenging time monitoring what types of snacks their children eat. Adults with peanut allergies are also more susceptible this time of year because of the large amounts of treats and snacks that are brought into the workplace.

One of the best ways to prevent allergic reactions is to avoid sharing snacks that have nuts in them. However, many people are sometimes unaware that what they eat even contain nuts. Checking ingredients or food labels beforehand is the safest way to ensure the foods you consume or serve do not have peanuts in them.

Another great way to inhibit severe allergic reactions is to be able to recognize the symptoms and then be able to respond quickly. The most common symptoms are:

  • Skin irritation including hives, eczema, redness, and swelling
  • Itching and tingling around the mouth and throat
  • Digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea
  • Tightness in chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock

Treating Peanut Allergies
The three primary methods used to treat allergic reactions to peanuts are:

  1. Antihistamines: If someone is exposed to peanuts and begins to suffer a mild reaction, antihistamines, like Benadryl, can effectively treat the reaction. The drugs are also effective if someone experiences skin irritation from peanut exposure. If antihistamines are used and symptoms do not improve or worsen, then medical treatment should be sought immediately.
  2. Epinephrine: EpiPens are used to administer Epinephrine or adrenaline to individuals experiencing a severe allergic reaction. These devices are prescribed by doctors and individuals with known peanut allergies typically carry one with them at all times.
  3. Emergency Responders: If someone begins to experience a severe reaction and the administration of an EpiPen does not improve their condition then contact 911 immediately.

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