Peanuts are legumes like peas, lentils and soybeans. The protein structure in peanuts is similar to those of tree nuts. They are grown underground mainly during summer months when the crop grows fast. The by-products are peanut butter, peanut oil and so on. They can be eaten raw, sauté, fried and in powdered form. The husk is used in preparing a drink for diabetic patients. The peanuts are used in food preparation too, where they can be fried, powdered and used to enhance the taste. Peanuts can be consumed in small amounts only. Some people have adverse reactions on consuming peanuts. Within minutes of eating peanuts or peanut products, they have allergic responses which can be
- Redness and swelling of the skin
- Itching or tingling sensation in the mouth
- Irritation in throat
- Digestive problems such as bloating, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea
- Shortness of breath, wheezing and a medical emergency reaction called Anaphylaxis.
Even a mild reaction should be enough for you to talk to your doctor about it, since the next time you consume the same food; there can be severe reaction which may need hospitalization. People who are allergic to peanuts can show same allergic reactions to other tree nuts like cashew, almonds and walnuts.
Symptoms of life threatening Anaphylaxis are as under:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Irritation and swelling in throat
- Reduced blood pressure
- Fast pulse
- Giddiness and losing conscious
- Redness in face, sweating
Peanut butter is liked by children and hence formed a part of the lunchbox in sandwiches. But now schools in the USA have declared that the lunchboxes should be without peanut products since it can cause life-threatening reaction in some children.
Children grow out of their allergies as they reach their teens. At young ages, body's immune system would be sensitive. Any food which is seen by the immune system as foreign invaders would bring out the allergic reactions. The immune system is the body's self-defence mechanism which tries to keep the body healthy. Sometimes even an indirect contact with peanuts or inhalation of peanut floor can push the immune system to react with symptom causing chemical substances which circulate in the blood stream and show up as mild allergic reactions.
When to see a doctor: An appointment with your doctor or an allergist is necessary if you develop such allergic reactions on consuming peanuts. He will use several methods to confirm the diagnosis of an allergic reaction and then advises treatment.
Tests & Diagnosis: The doctor will start with family medical history and a physical examination. If the family members are allergic to any food substances, it is better to divulge this information to the doctor too. An allergy to peanut can be difficult to diagnose through the normal skin prick test and blood test. Hence an allergist will put the patient on a condition called "elimination" where the suspected allergy-causing food is eliminated from your diet for a specific time – for a few weeks. If the symptoms do not occur during this time, it can be safely diagnosed that the particular food was the culprit. If the same food is reintroduced into your diet and the symptoms recur, then the diagnosis is confirmed.
The doctor will then conduct a food challenge test which is done in the clinic or hospital where immediate medical assistance is available. Here the allergy-causing food is fed to the patient in small amounts first, and quantity increased over time and then tested for reactions. This test confirms the allergy-causing substance and the doctor will recommend totally avoiding the food substance from your diet.
People tend to outgrow food allergies over a period of time if the body's immune system overcomes the "invasion" and matures. But certain allergies remain for life.