One of the best dietary proteins consumed in the United States is peanut butter. Even with its high level of popularity, eating peanuts at the local sports arena or rodeo, sitting around with the family snacking in front of a fire, or sending a child off to school with the ultimate – peanut butter and jelly sandwich, peanuts are one of America's highest allergenic foods.
One of the main problems for people with a peanut allergy is that more and more foods are being made with peanuts or peanut oil. Making matters worse is that for people who know they have a peanut allergy, the ingredient is often masked on the label as "groundnuts" or "hydrolysed vegetable protein." Although you can not deny the wonderful flavor of peanuts, for people with a peanut allergy, even trace amounts can be deadly.
Just imagine having a peanut allergy and going out to dinner. You check the menu carefully, choosing food without peanuts. Unbeknownst to you, dinner arrives at the table and within minutes of eating the so-called "innocent" meal, you begin to have symptoms associated with a peanut allergy. The problem is that while the menu item did not contain peanuts, it was cooked in peanut oil. This scenario happens all the time and can be deadly.
Unlike other nut allergies, a peanut allergy, if serious, can prove to be fatal within minutes. Most often, the throat will begin to swell whereby the person can not breathe. While this is the most critical symptom of a peanut allergy, other symptoms might include at varying levels:
Itchy or swollen lips, tongue, mouth, or eyes
Tightness in the throat, mouth, and / or chest
Change in voice
Nausea and / or vomiting
Trouble breathing or swallowing
Wheezing, choking, and / or coughing
Onset of severe fatigue and / or dizziness
If the peanut allergy is new, then emergency care is needed immediately following any of the above symptoms. If the individual is aware of having a peanut allergy, a shot of epinephrine can be carried around discretely and administered at the first sign.
If you are sensitive to foods or notice changes after eating peanuts, then chances are you have some degree of a peanut allergy. In this case, it is crucial that you be tested by an allergist to determine if this is in fact a problem. If so, then the good news is that foods made with peanuts can usually be substituted with other nuts such as pecans or walnuts with little to no problem. Be sure to read labels carefully, when dining out, always ask if the food contains or is made with any type of peanut or peanut oil, and never share utensils with someone eating foods that might contain peanuts or peanut oil.
While immunotherapy has helped some people with a peanut allergy, remember that this type of allergy does not have a cure other than to avoid peanuts or peanut oil. Having a peanut allergy does not have to be something to fear as long as you are informed about the things being consumed.