Perhaps it was something in the pesto sauce or even a seemingly harmless scoop of ice cream— between the entrée and their first few licks of dessert, you notice your child is suffering with a runny nose and worse, breaking out in hives. Could it be an allergic reaction? But to what?

Overview of a Peanut Allergy

Foods such as chocolate, egg rolls, marzipan, and, yes, even ice cream and pasta sauce often contain or come into contact with peanut particles. And as popular of an ingredient this nut is, it’s also one of the most common food allergies in the United States. Back in 2008, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) already found that four out every 100 children have a food allergy. And peanuts themselves reportedly account for roughly 90 percent of all U.S. food allergies in both young and old alike. In any case, should your child find his or herself in a situation similar to the above, there’s a likely chance that dish’s “something” could be peanuts.

Typically, symptoms of a peanut allergy reaction appear within minutes of contact or ingestion. And depending on your child’s sensitivity to peanuts, they can range from mild to severe.

Mild Symptoms:

The following symptoms do not have to occur altogether and may be subtle, so teaching your child to recognize them is important, especially if they’ve been diagnosed with a peanut allergy.

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • A tingling or itching feeling around the mouth or throat
  • Itchy, red, spotting, or swelling skin
  • Nausea

Moderate Symptoms:

  • Swelling lips, tongue, limbs, or face
  • Stomach cramps or discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing
  • Panic

Severe Symptoms:

Perhaps the most widely known condition of an allergy is anaphylaxis (“an-a-phy-LAX-is”), an acute allergic reaction that includes:

  • Swollen throat, making breathing difficult
  • Rapid pulse
  • Severe drop in blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Shock
  • Dizziness or even passing out

Also note that the mild to moderate reactions can also occur during or preceding anaphylaxis.

Responding to a Mild or Moderate Reaction:

Although both degrees must be taken seriously, a minor allergic reaction including hives and itching can be relieved—but not prevented— with over-the-counter antihistamines should a doctor not be immediately available.

Before the doctor’s appointment concerning the reaction, be sure to keep away from products including peanuts or, as labeled, were processed in a facility handling them, too. If more mild to moderate reactions occur until then, try to record:

  • How much of what food product may have triggered the reaction
  • How long it took for what symptoms to appear
  • History of medication or any other known allergies
  • Whether any family members also suffer from which food allergies
  • Any questions you may have (i.e. what else may be causing their symptoms?)

And should they be diagnosed with a peanut allergy, it is also recommended that you follow-up with their doctor even after a minor allergic reaction.

Responding to a Severe Reaction:

If your child seems to be suffering from a severe reaction (so an intense culmination of mild to moderate symptoms) or anaphylaxis, seek medical attention immediately. Treating anaphylaxis includes a mandatory trip to the ER and an injection of epinephrine (“ep-i-neph-rin”).

Your doctor can prescribe your child an epinephrine autoinjector if they are diagnosed with a peanut allergy. The syringe should be readily available at all times wherever your child is and it’s also a good idea to request a spare in case the original is misplaced or lost. Be sure you, your family, your child’s caretaker, and/or teacher know when and how to use it at the onset of any serious symptoms.

The only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid foods that contain or touch peanuts altogether, but as we’ve seen, it’s a fairly common ingredient around the States and especially in Chinese and African cuisine to name a few. But until researchers can come up with a definitive treatment for peanut allergy, educating yourself, your child, and those caring for them of its risks, symptoms, and reaction-responses is the best way to handle it until then.

Sources:
Branum, A., & Lukacs, S. (2010, January 19). Food Allergy Among U.S. Children: Trends in Prevalence and Hospitalizations. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
Holley, C. (2014, January 16). Symptoms of a Peanut Butter Allergy. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
Peanut allergy. (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peanut-allergy/basics/definition/con-20027898
Wadha, D. (2012, June 21). Peanut Allergy Symptoms in Children. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
Williams, S. (2013, December 4). What Are the Symptoms of a Peanut Allergy? (G. Krucik, Ed.). Retrieved August 4, 2015.