5 Shocking Truths About Peanut Allergies That You Should Know


Having a peanut allergy is serious stuff. According to the website, it’s the most common type of food allergy in children and the statistics show that they’ve tripled in the last 20 years, affecting at least 1.2% of the entire U.S. population. Unfortunately, only 20% of children outgrow their peanut allergy and sadly for some, one reaction can even be fatal. Yet despite over 6.1 million people around the world that are suffering from peanut allergies, there are quite a number of misconceptions about this disease.

Thankfully, board certified allergist and fellow at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Mark Holbreich, MD, who practices in Indianapolis, Indiana, has five unknown facts about peanut allergies. If you or someone you know and love happens to suffer from a peanut allergy, this information can help protect and keep you or your loved one safer than before.

Fact Number One: Kids that had eczema as babies develop peanut allergies

Most people tend to wonder why some kids end up developing peanut allergies while others don’t. According to the experts, they think that it has something to do with children’s exposure to peanuts through damaged skin before they happen to eat solid foods. Dr. Holbreich explains, “In babies with atopic dermatitis – a.k.a. eczema – the skin is scaly and itchy.” This means that when a baby’s impacted skin happens to come in contact with protein, it can enter the blood stream and become a food allergy or sensitivity. And it isn’t only peanuts that are the problem. Oftentimes, it’s the same for other popular food allergies like soy, egg, wheat and cow’s milk.

The thing about peanut protein is that it happens to be quite resilient, with a high resistance to normal cleaning methods, which means it can spread easily through the house. According to The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, this normally happens in homes where peanuts are often eaten.

Fact Number Two: Trace amounts of peanut exposure are considered unlikely to cause a major or severe reaction.

If you or your child have a peanut allergy, then even products that contain trace amounts of peanuts will probably have you running for the hills. But experts share that despite food labels saying “May contain peanuts” or “Trace amounts of peanuts” or even “Manufactured in a facility with peanuts,” they are probably OK, shares Dr. Holbreich.

In fact, one particular study that came out in the World Allergy Organization Journal found that just 10% of products that have “may contain peanuts” on their list have actual detectable peanut protein. Dr. Holbreich iterates, “Fear about food allergy is a problem, and some health professionals feed into this by making dire predictions about accidental reactions.”

He continues, “I reassure families that a peanut allergy is manageable with reasonable precautions,” which include not eating peanuts. But for those that claim to have “trace amounts” you shouldn’t be too worried. Of course this doesn’t mean that if you have a peanut allergy it will be safe to eat foods that do have warning labels on them. He goes on to say that every patient’s doctor or specialist usually has their own information and instructions, and that you should “Always rely on the advice your provider gives you,” he shares.

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Fact Number Three: Death from peanut allergies is actually very rare.

Peanut allergy fatality is indeed, very real and very scary, but the statistics prove that they aren’t as scary as you might first believe. Although the statistics show that at least 5% of people in the United States have suffered from anaphylaxis – which is a life threatening reaction to even just a few seconds of exposure to something you’re allergic to – it has a risk of fatality of less than 1%. Dr. Holbreich shares, “For many parents, there’s a strong fear that their child can die from peanut ingestion. But when you look at the statistics, it’s an extremely rare occurrence.”

The most common treatment for people that are at high risk for anaphylactic response is an epi pen, or epinephrine, rather than the usual steroids or Benadryl that most emergency rooms will administer. Dr. Holbreich reiterates, “We know that Benadryl doesn’t help with allergic reactions to peanuts because it takes 30 minutes to get into your system, and allergic reactions need to be treated more quickly.” He also shares that there are quite a lot of parents that don’t want to shoot their children with epinephrine, but he says, “It’s important to remember that epinephrine is the only way to successfully treat an allergic reaction. And it has no side effects.”

Fact Number Four: You might actually be able to prevent peanut allergies

Since most peanut allergies are life-long, the true way to treat it is in prevention. The results of a groundbreaking studythat was conducted back in 2015 showed that giving peanuts to infants below 11 months might actually ‘reduce peanut allergy prevalence by 70 to 80 percent.’ These results led the American Academy of Pediatrics and a number of other allergy organizations around the world to come up with new guidelines that advise parents to actually introduce peanuts and peanut foods to their infants as early as 4 months in age.

Dr. Holbreich cites, “What we know is that introducing a diversity of food to children starting at an early age is important. The earlier a child’s immune system sees peanuts, eggs, dairy and fish, the less reactive that system may become to those foods.”

Fact Number Five: There are new treatment options for patients to lessen the severity of their allergic reactions to peanuts

During the past 10 years, doctors and allergists have begun doing a Oral Induction Tolerance (OIT) with patients. During checkups, they give their patients tiny amounts of allergenic food which they gradually increase in order to hopefully desensitize the patient to that particular food allergy. And in January of 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the very first OIT therapy for kids with confirmed peanut allergies between the ages of 4 and 17.

According to Dr. Holbreich, the goal of the treatment is to ‘increase the dose until a child gets the equivalent of one or two peanuts.’ He says this is “because we know that most accidental exposures involve about one half a peanut. The idea is that if we can get children to tolerate a therapeutic dose of one or two peanuts, they’ll be better able to handle exposure in an emergency setting.”

He also tells parents that are extremely worried about their children with peanut allergies about this new treatment, explaining, “If you have a young child with a food allergy, I believe there’s a good chance that there will be even more treatments available for her by the time she goes off to college. In the next 10 to 15 years, I think we’ll have several options for people with peanut allergies as well as a number of other food allergies.”