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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Peanut Allergy: Facts to Remember

Published July 27, 2012 9:17 AM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling

As we know, the peanut allergy can be an extremely dangerous and even life-threatening condition. In addition, both direct and indirect contact with peanuts can evoke a devastating allergic reaction. Below is the official statement offered by the Mayo Clinic describing the possibilities:

"Peanut allergy occurs when your immune system mistakenly identifies peanut proteins as something harmful. When you have direct or indirect contact with peanuts, your immune system releases symptom-causing chemicals into your bloodstream. It isn't known exactly why some people become allergic to peanuts and others don't.

Exposure to peanuts can occur in different ways:

  • Direct contact. The most common cause of peanut allergy is eating peanuts or peanut-containing foods. Sometimes direct skin contact with peanuts can trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Cross-contact. This is the unintended introduction of peanuts into a product. It's generally the result of a food being exposed to peanuts during processing or handling.
  • Inhalation. An allergic reaction may occur if you inhale dust or aerosols containing peanuts, such as that of peanut flour or peanut oil cooking spray."

In addition to this information, the Mayo Clinic also offers information regarding all the different aspects of diagnosing and treating a peanut allergy. To help parents prepare for the initial visit to their child's pediatrician, the website suggests the following:

  • Write down any symptoms you've had, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
  • Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to recall all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Click on this link for suggested questions to ask your doctor.

If you think your child may have a peanut allergy, it is of course important to be as informed as possible. Below is the Mayo Clinic's list of current methods your doctor may use to help accurately diagnose a peanut allergy:

  • Description of your symptoms. Be prepared to tell your doctor about your symptoms - such as exactly what happened after you ate peanuts, how long it took for a reaction to occur, and what amount of peanuts or food containing peanuts caused your reaction.
  • Physical examination. A careful exam can identify or exclude other medical problems.
  • Food diary. Your doctor may ask you to keep a food diary of your eating habits, symptoms and medications to pinpoint the problem.
  • Elimination diet. If it isn't clear that peanuts are the culprit, or if your doctor suspects you may have a reaction to more than one type of food, an elimination diet may be needed. You may be asked to eliminate peanuts or other suspect foods for a week or two, and then add the food items back into your diet one at a time. This process can help link symptoms to specific foods. If you've had a severe reaction to foods, this method can't safely be used.
  • Skin test. A skin *** test can determine your reaction to particular foods. In this test, small amounts of suspected foods are placed on the skin of your forearm or back. Your skin is then pricked with a needle, to allow a tiny amount of the substance beneath your skin surface. If you're allergic to a particular substance being tested, you develop a raised bump or reaction.
  • Blood test. A blood test can measure your immune system's response to particular foods by checking the amount of allergy-type antibodies in your bloodstream, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. For this test, a blood sample taken in your doctor's office is sent to a medical laboratory, where different foods can be tested. However, these blood tests aren't always accurate.

Once diagnosed, it is important to follow your doctor recommendations in order to keep your child safe. Unfortunately, "there's no definitive treatment for peanut allergy, but desensitization is showing promise. Desensitization involves giving children with peanut allergies increasing doses of peanut flour or peanut extract over time. Studies have shown promise in desensitizing children to peanuts. More study is needed", as noted by the Mayo Clinic.  The site continues on to decipher between various reactions and how to treat them:

For a minor allergic reaction, over-the-counter or prescribed antihistamines may help reduce symptoms. These drugs can be taken after exposure to peanuts to help relieve itching or hives. However, antihistamines aren't enough to treat a severe allergic reaction.

For a severe allergic reaction, you may need an emergency injection of epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room. Many people with allergies carry an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Twinject). This device is a combined syringe and concealed needle that injects a single dose of medication when pressed against your thigh. (Also, make sure you know how to properly use the Epipen!)

 

Please write in with any additional questions and/or comments about your experiences

with the peanut allergy.

 

I hope that the last two months has offered parents and therapists solid information

regarding dairy and peanut allergies. It is important to be informed so that we can keep

our own children and the children we work with safe.

Being informed may be your best defense against an actual allergic reaction.

 

Join me throughout the month of August for exciting new summer recipes!

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About this Blog


    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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