Why Peanut Allergies Are So Prominent in the US

Why are peanut allergies so common in the US?

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Whether your allergies are airborne or dietary, a conversation with allergists in Princeton and Robbinsville can be useful in lessening your risks. Even if your allergies aren’t life-threatening, they can make you quite miserable and limit your quality of life. Kathryn Edwards MD offers expertise in managing allergies and lessening your risk of a dangerous reaction with varied treatments from immunotherapy to epinephrine training.

Are Peanut Allergies an Epidemic?

The answer to this question is: It depends on where you live. Because of the severity of a peanut reaction, there are many parents who avoid giving peanuts to their children in infancy or in their early years. Thus, their first exposure triggers a strong immune response.

A small study by the researchers at King’s College in London worked with infants under the age of ten months old. Of the 640 children, all had a genetic risk of peanut allergy. Half of them were given small peanut snacks on a regular basis and half were denied peanuts entirely. This study continued until the children were five years old.

At the end of the experiment, each child was given peanuts. The children who were given peanut snacks regularly in infancy and during their toddler years had less than a 5% risk of an allergic reaction. More than 15% of the children who were not exposed to peanuts had an allergic response.

Early Exposure: Regional and Cultural Considerations

If you grew up eating peanuts, your risk of a severe allergic response is much less. Children raised in Israel, Thailand, Africa and China partake in meals and snacks that are high in peanuts, either ground, whole or creamed into butter. Because there’s a cultural acceptance of peanuts and they’re endemic in the cuisine, pretty much everyone gets at least some early exposure.

This early exposure is key to lessening the risk of reaction, from mild to severe. Complete avoidance of peanut products appears to increase the risk of a life-threatening reaction.

Reactions: How Serious is This Allergy?

The biggest fear around peanut allergies is losing your ability to breathe. This is a valid fear. Food allergies can cause food-induced anaphylaxis, and peanuts are the most common cause of this dangerous reaction.

However, this is not the only reaction to peanut exposure. It’s very possible to have a milder reaction, and children exposed to a bit of peanuts before they turn one year old may suffer a few digestive issues but not go into respiratory failure.

Discuss your concerns with your pediatrician before exposing your child to peanuts in any form, particularly if your child has an egg allergy. If your physician does recommend that your child can start a slow process of oral exposure to peanuts, be prepared.

The point of oral immunotherapy for those with a peanut allergy is not to make it easy for them to enjoy a peanut butter sandwich. However, with immunotherapy, many who are at risk of a blocked airway can have a lighter reaction that’s easier to survive.

Get Tested

If someone fed you a peanut butter sandwich when you were a child and you choked on it, the experience may have looked like an allergic response. By the time you got your airway cleared, you and everyone around you may have determined that you are allergic to peanuts and you’ve avoided them into adulthood.

Get tested. You may indeed be allergic to peanuts. You may also simply have tried to swallow too big a bite because your baby teeth had fallen out and eating was just a messy challenge. You could also be sensitive to wheat.

An allergic response is a specific series of actions that involves your immune system. If you ate a peanut butter sandwich and suffered

  • mouth tingling
  • hives around your lips
  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea

you may well be sensitive to either peanut butter or wheat. However, there are a lot of other ingredients that may have caused a reaction or response.

Once you’ve been tested, you can prepare for your next exposure.

Recommended Preparation Steps

Know your reaction. If your reaction to peanut exposure includes stomach pain and diarrhea, you will need to stay close to a bathroom and will probably need more rest. An over-the-counter allergy med may help, but for many sufferers, keeping such medication down can be a challenge.

If you have an airway reaction, including anaphylactic shock, you will need to carry an epi pen. There are many manufacturers and several different formats for epi pen use, but the primary constant in using one of these tools is to

  • know the steps to use the pen
  • practice without taking off the cap so you can practice
  • confirm that your epi pen is within date

Epi pens are not cheap, but having one that is out of date can be useless. You want to store your epi pen somewhere cool and dark, such as in a cupboard. If you need to carry it in your purse or backpack, do your best to keep it away from excess heat. They don’t need to be refrigerated; in fact, too much exposure to cold can reduce the effectiveness of the drug.

Complete Avoidance Appears to Increase the Danger

If you react poorly to any food or potential allergen, there are ways that you can increase your tolerance by oral immunotherapy. With peanuts, this may not mean that you will ever fully enjoy them without any type of reaction, but it could be the difference between extreme danger and a manageable reaction.

Final Thoughts

No matter the severity of your peanut allergy or other other allergic concerns, you can lessen the severity of your reaction and risk by working with a knowledgeable allergist. Contact us for a conversation and an assessment of your current condition and steps to lessen your symptoms.

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