One of the most common food allergies and appears to be on the rise in children in the last decade. According to one study, the number of children in the US with peanut allergy more than tripled between 1997 and 2008.
Peanuts can cause a severe, potentially fatal, allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Peanut allergies tend to last throughout life, although studies indicate that approximately 20 percent of children with peanut allergy do eventually outgrow their allergy. Even trace amounts of peanut can cause an allergic reaction. However, casual contact with peanuts, such as touching peanuts or peanut butter residue, is less likely to trigger a severe reaction unless the area that comes into contact with peanuts then comes into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth (for example, a child with peanut allergy gets peanut butter on her fingers, and then rubs her eyes).
People with a peanut allergy are advised to have quick access to an epinephrine auto-injector at all times. To prevent a reaction, strict avoidance of peanut and peanut products is essential. Staff and customers should always read ingredient labels to identify peanut ingredients before the product is purchased.
Peanuts are not the same as tree nuts, which grow on trees. Peanuts grow underground and are part of the legumes plant family. Other legumes include beans, peas, lentils, and soybeans. People who are allergic to peanuts do not have a greater chance of being allergic to another legume (including soy) than they do to any other food. Tree nuts include, but are not limited to, walnut, pecans, pine nuts, almond, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio, and Brazil nuts. A person with an allergy to one type of tree nut has a higher chance of being allergic to other types. Most experts advise patients with tree nuts allergies to avoid all products that contain nuts or ingredients produced from nuts.