Understanding the ABC's of peanut and tree nut allergies may save someone's life. Please note, these food allergies are life-threatening. Everyone needs to understand there is no margin of error when it comes to peanut and tree nut allergies. The purpose of this website is to educate individuals to the dangers of this allergy, and what can be done to improve an allergic child's (or adult's) environment. So pass along this website to individuals who would like to learn more about this allergy. Whether you want to educate a school, friend, family member, teacher, coach, child, or neighbor, this site will explain some of the basic principles of the tree nut / peanut allergy.
A = Anaphylaxis: According to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education), anaphylaxis is a sudden, severe, potentially fatal, systemic allergic reaction that can involve various areas of the body (such as the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and cardiovascular system). Symptoms occur within minutes to two hours after contact with the allergy-causing substance, but in rare instances may occur up to four hours later. Anaphylactic reactions can be mild to life-threatening. The annual incidence of anaphylactic reactions is about 30 per 100,000 persons, and individuals with asthma, eczema, or hay fever are at greater relative risk of experiencing anaphylaxis. A person having an anaphylactic reaction should not be moving around (if at all possible) because it can speed up the response. The blood circulation may increase causing the offending proteins to spread faster. The individual should lie on their back with their feet/legs elevated so more blood will remain close to the vital organs.
B = Breathing: Most people know someone who is allergic to tree nuts or peanuts. One important concern is that peanut and tree nut allergies come in all shapes and sizes. Someone could be mildly allergic, while another individual can be severe. There is a big difference. The mild person may just get an itch or skin rash. The severe individual can just stop breathing and die. The lesson here.....not all peanut and tree nut allergic people will react the same when exposed to this food. Every incident should be taken seriously! It is also important to mention that people who have suffered previous mild reactions, can develop life-threatening reactions at any time.
C = Circulation: Heart rate, circulation of blood, breathing are all affected during an anaphylactic reaction. Remember, anaphylactic shock is an allergic reaction that can be fatal within minutes, either through swelling that shuts off airways or through a dramatic drop in blood pressure. Each case should be taken seriously. The first defense against anaphylactic shock is the epipen. The epipen website states, "EpiPen and EpiPen Jr auto-injectors are the leading forms of self-injectable epinephrine. Administering EpiPen at the first sign of a severe allergic reaction can provide a person with the time needed to get to an Emergency Room." It is vital that each allergic person carries 1 or 2 epipens with them at all times!
What exactly is a peanut allergy?
Peanut allergy occurs if a person develops allergic antibodies (IgE) specific to peanuts. If the person is then exposed to peanut, the peanut reacts with the person's own IgE antibodies to cause a reaction. The best defense is not so much avoiding the food, but to EDUCATE everyone around the peanut allergic individual. Individuals may be at risk for allergy based upon a family history of the allergy, asthma, eczema or hay fever. In allergy, when the immune system (the part of our body that is supposed to help us fight infections) defends itself against harmless proteins such as those in peanut, we may develop a peanut allergy or other food allergy.
What exactly is a tree nut allergy?
Tree nut allergies can also be a life-threatening food allergy. Tree nuts are not the same as peanuts and come from different food families such as walnut, almond, pecan, hazelnut, pistachio, cashew, and macadamia. It is important to check with your allergist to get an extensive list of nuts. Peanut allergic people can often eat tree nuts and tree nut allergic people can often ingest peanuts. However, some allergic individuals may be allergic to both peanut and tree nuts. It is important to note that if you are allergic to tree nuts, it does not mean you are allergic to all tree nuts. An allergist can do a test on your child to be more specific. Here is a more extensive list of tree nuts, but again, check with your allergist to be safe.
Why are peanut and tree nut allergies lumped together?
This is common. In some cases, children can be allergic to both. Both allergies can potentially be life threatening if ingested. Many parents just get nervous about products with poor labeling, or the issue of cross contamination in the plants that make foods with other nut products. For example, due to processing, some tree nuts could be processed with peanuts - making them unsafe even for those who just have a peanut allergy.
What dangers exist from a peanut or tree nut allergy?
Does a peanut or tree nut allergic individual need to ingest the food to cause a reaction?
No! A reaction will occur when a product is ingested, but a reaction may also occur through just contact. Some peanut / tree nut allergic individuals can receive a rash just through contact. In fact, if residue from a peanut or tree nut product is left on a lunchroom table at a school, an allergic child may accidentally put their hands on any leftover residue. If that hand now touches the child's mouth, the possibility of an anaphylactic reaction could take place. There are many allergist that believe some type of reaction to peanut products could occur if it is airborne. They believe that there is such a thing as 'peanut dust.' For example, if a peanut shell is cracked, the dust from the shell can travel and penetrate a body through the nostril. Many doctors are uncertain about the smell of peanut butter. If someone is eating a peanut butter sandwich next to the allergic person, could that smell trigger a reaction? The verdict has not been clear yet, but it has not been ruled out! It is better to be safe than sorry.
The material on this web site are for educational purposes. Information about peanut / tree nut allergies can change on any given day. Always consult with your family doctor / allergist regarding information on this web page. Always remember to read the food labels ingredients on food products each time you purchase them. The designers of this web site assume no responsibilities for any problems you may incur with regards to the peanut / tree nut allergy. The information contained herein is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Please seek the advice of your physician regarding any treatment for allergies.