Peanut Allergy – What You Need to Know
With a scientific name, Arachis hypogeal, peanut is a legume and one of the foods that commonly cause allergies. A peanut allergy is a very serious condition that is most potentially dangerous and can cause death, especially to young adult, adolescent and those people with asthma.
Peanut allergies are the most common food allergy for school age and adults. They are said to be one of the allergies that can be outgrown. It is also said that such common foods are the ones frequently cause food allergies. Peanuts are common to westernized diets and therefore make peanut allergies common to America. Although peanuts are also common to Asia, their way of cooking it like boiling and frying makes peanut less allergenic compared to the method used by America, which is dry roasting.
Though it is possible for adults to develop peanut allergy, it tends to be less severe in these cases.
Sometimes, tree nuts also cause cross-reaction to patients with peanuts with food allergy. In addition, sometimes tree nut products are actually made from peanuts, because peanuts are often used as a substitute to tree nuts.
Peanut allergies just like any other food allergies are caused by the mistake made by the immune system. Allergic cascade is what we call to the body’s response of allergic person to peanut protein. At first encounter of the human body to peanut protein, no allergic reaction will take effect. During the eating of peanuts though sometimes just by skin contact or inhaling peanut fumes, the body or the immune system recognizes the peanut protein as a harmful substance. To be able to overcome the suspected harmful substance, the body will produce IgE or Immunoglobulin E against the peanut protein. Once the second encounter occurs, the Ige from the mast cells will produce chemicals including histamines that cause the allergic reaction. For peanut-allergic patients, the peanut itself is not harmful, but the way the body reacts to the peanut protein.
Peanut allergies are triggered very easily. For some reason, a very small amount of peanut protein, less than any other protein causing allergic reactions, triggers the allergic reaction. That is why peanut-allergic persons often experience allergic reactions due to cross contamination. Other products that are made in the same processors or machines where the peanuts are processed may cause patients with peanut allergy have an allergic reaction. For sensitive patients, peanut allergy reactions can also be triggered by direct contact to a person who just has eaten a peanut product.
Peanut allergies can be diagnosed by the same process the other food allergies are diagnosed. While eating the products with peanuts, the patient may experience itchiness or swelling around their lips and inside the mouth. Itchiness or swelling of throat may happen after swallowing the food. Abdominal pain, cramps, and bloating may occur once it reaches the stomach. After the digestion and after the body has absorbed the peanut protein, the allergen will then wander around the body through blood, causing skin rashes or hives, and may cause anaphylactic reaction.
Cross contamination of foods to peanuts are common to western countries because peanuts now are already part of westernized diets. Peanuts belong to the legume family, so other legumes may also trigger allergic reactions to peanut-allergic persons though this rarely happens. Unlike any other legume except peanuts, lupine frequently causes allergic reactions to patients. Tree nuts are different to peanuts, but tree nuts like macadamia, almonds, and cashews also cause allergic reactions to a person with peanut allergy. Therefore, peanut allergic person should also avoid eating tree nuts and lupines.
Just like any other allergic person, people with peanut allergy must bring EpiPen or TwinJect in case of anaphylactic reaction. Patients with peanut allergy may also bring antihistamines so that they may counteract the symptoms of the peanut allergy.