How Do I Know If My Child Has a Peanut Allergy?

Reviewed on 10/26/2021

What Is a Peanut Allergy?

If you or your doctor suspects your child has a peanut allergy, you may be referred to an allergist, who can perform tests to diagnose peanut allergies such as a skin test, blood tests, and a food challenge.
If you or your doctor suspects your child has a peanut allergy, you may be referred to an allergist, who can perform tests to diagnose peanut allergies such as a skin test, blood tests, and a food challenge.

  • Peanuts, which are actually legumes and not nuts, can cause allergic reactions such as difficulty breathing and other serious health problems in people who are allergic.
  • When people have a peanut allergy, the immune system overreacts to proteins, which results in the symptoms of an allergic reaction
  • Nearly 2.5% of children in the U.S. are thought to have a peanut allergy
  • If you or your doctor suspects your child has a peanut allergy, you may be referred to an allergist, which is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of allergies

How Do You Get Diagnosed with an Allergy to Peanuts?

Tests used to diagnose allergies such as peanut allergies include: 

  • Skin test 
    • A small scratch is made on the skin and a small amount of liquid extract of the nut is applied
    • If there is a reaction, such as a raised spot (wheal or hive), skin redness, or itching, it usually means there is an allergy
  • Blood tests
    • Antibody test: The blood is drawn and sent to a lab where it is mixed with the allergen and checked for IgE antibodies, a type of protein the body produces when it has an allergic reaction
    • Component testing: Looks for IgE to several different proteins found in peanuts, to can give the doctor additional information about the allergy and the best way to manage it
  • Food challenge
    • Involves gradually eating a serving of peanuts and seeing whether it causes symptoms
    • Usually done only when other tests are not clear or to check if an allergy has gone away
    • For safety reasons, this test must be done ONLY in a doctor's office or hospital

Do not attempt to test if your child has a peanut allergy at home, as a severe life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) could occur. The doctor’s office has medications to treat severe allergic reactions.

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What Are Peanut Allergy Symptoms?

Symptoms of a peanut allergy usually occur within minutes to hours after eating peanut and may include: 

Uncommonly, peanut allergies may also trigger other symptoms hours to days after eating peanut such as:

What Is the Treatment for Peanut Allergy?

The best treatment for peanut allergy is to avoid peanuts, and also any foods that may contain peanuts. 

  • Read food labels carefully
  • Some foods may not contain peanuts but are produced in factories that make other items that contain nuts
  • Equipment may be used for both types of foods and cross-contamination may occur
  • Some countries (including the U.S.) have laws that require companies to clearly list whether a food has peanuts in it
    • Check food labels for phrases such as:
      • “May contain peanuts/tree nuts"
      • "Produced on shared equipment with tree nuts or peanuts”
  • When dining out, inform servers of the allergy
  • Be careful of high-risk foods for people with peanut or tree nut allergy such as:
    • Cookies and other baked goods
    • Candy
    • Ice cream
    • Asian, African, and Mexican foods (which may incorporate peanuts)
    • Sauces (nuts may be used to thicken dishes)
  • Make sure children know what foods they can and cannot eat
  • Have an emergency plan
    • Antihistamines may be used for mild reactions, but are not to be used as a substitute for epinephrine if a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) occurs
    • People with a diagnosed peanut allergy should have a shot of epinephrine with them at all times
    • Epinephrine injection comes in an easy-to-carry dispenser
    • Parents should notify a child’s teachers, the school nurse, coaches, parents of the child’s friends, and anyone else who may care for the child to know what a reaction looks like and how to respond
      • These people should also know how to reach the parents and the child’s doctor in case of emergency
    • After epinephrine is administered, the child should be taken to the hospital or another medical facility to be monitored for at least 4 hours to make sure the reaction is under control and does not come back

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Reviewed on 10/26/2021
References
https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/nut-allergy.html

https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/food/peanut/

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/peanut-allergy-the-basics?search=peanut%20allergy&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~69&usage_type=default&display_rank=1