Peanut allergy is a body reaction that occurs when eating nuts or peanut-based foods. These reactions can include itching on the skin, sneezing, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Nuts are one type of food that is good for consumption, because it contains complete nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Some types of nuts, such as peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, or walnuts, have the same nutritional content.
Peanut allergy is one type of food allergy that is mostly experienced by children. However, peanut allergies can also be experienced by adults. Peanut allergy needs to be treated to prevent a more severe allergic reaction, namely anaphylactic shock .
Causes of Peanut Allergy
Peanut allergy occurs when the immune system reacts and perceives peanuts as substances that are harmful to the body (allergens). This reaction then triggers the body to produce a chemical compound called histamine .
The histamine then triggers the appearance of allergy symptoms. Histamine can spread through the blood vessels and affect various body tissues, such as the skin, respiratory tract, and intestines.
A person can develop a peanut allergy if:
- Eating nuts or foods containing nuts
- Having direct contact between the skin and nuts, if the patient is very sensitive
- Inhaling peanut odors or dust containing nuts, such as peanut flour
There are several groups of people who are at high risk of suffering from peanut allergies, namely:
- Babies and children, because their digestive system's immune system is still not fully developed
- Adults who have had a peanut allergy as a child or have a family history of peanut allergy
- People who have allergies to certain foods
- Atopic eczema sufferers
Symptoms of Peanut Allergy
Allergic reactions that appear are different for each patient, ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms of a peanut allergy usually begin to appear within minutes to hours after the sufferer eats or touches peanuts.
Early symptoms of a peanut allergy include:
- Nasal congestion
- Watery eyes
- The skin feels itchy, red, and a rash appears
- Swollen lips
- Discomfort around the mouth and throat
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
When to go to the doctor
Immediately consult a doctor if allergy symptoms appear after eating peanuts, even if these symptoms are mild.
You are also advised to check with your child to the doctor , if there is a history of peanut allergy or other allergies in the family. This action aims to determine whether the child has an allergy to peanuts or certain substances so that allergy symptoms can be prevented.
If you see someone experiencing severe dizziness, shortness of breath, or even loss of consciousness after eating peanuts, immediately take them to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. These symptoms need to be watched out for because they can be a sign of life-threatening anaphylactic shock .
Peanut Allergy Diagnosis
If you suspect that you have a peanut allergy, immediately consult an allergy specialist. Before undergoing the consultation, you should make notes about the types of food eaten, when allergy symptoms first appeared, the duration of symptoms, and what has been done to relieve symptoms.
This note is important because the doctor will ask about these things. The doctor will also ask for a family history of allergies and asthma , then perform a physical examination.
If the symptoms that arise are suspected to be caused by allergies, the doctor will perform several allergy tests to determine the cause of the allergy, including:
test This test is done to check the level of immunoglobulin antibodies in the blood and measure the immune system's response to certain foods.
Skin prick test ( skin prick test )
In this test, the doctor will prick an area of the skin, then insert a special solution under the surface of the skin and monitor the reaction that appears.
If the cause of the allergy is still unknown through blood tests and skin prick tests, the doctor will perform other tests, such as:
In this examination, the patient is asked not to eat nuts or other foods for a week or two. After that, the patient is allowed to return to his original eating pattern while recording all the food consumed. This method should be carried out under the supervision of a doctor.
Food test ( food challenge )
In this test, the doctor will give you food with and without pea protein content. After that, the doctor will see if the patient has an allergic reaction or not. This test is carried out under the supervision of a doctor so that the patient can be treated immediately if a severe allergic reaction occurs.
Peanut Allergy Treatment
Peanut allergy treatment aims to relieve symptoms and prevent allergic reactions. The best way to prevent a peanut allergic reaction is to avoid peanuts and products containing peanuts.
If you experience a mild allergic reaction, immediately take an over-the-counter allergy medication, such as chlorpheniramine , to relieve the symptoms that appear. Medications for food allergies can cause drowsiness.
Another treatment for peanut allergy is immunotherapy. This method is carried out by doctors by giving a small amount of allergen to the patient gradually, in order to form the patient's immune system to the allergen.
However, immunotherapy is not widely used because of the risk of causing an anaphylactic reaction. If necessary, immunotherapy should be carried out under the supervision of an allergist.
Management of anaphylactic reactions
If you have a history of allergies and are at high risk of developing a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), it is recommended to always carry an epinephrine syringe in the shape of a pen. If an anaphylactic reaction occurs, this drug can be used to prevent a fatal reaction.
Some steps that need to be taken if symptoms of anaphylaxis appear are:
- Use an epinephrine shot if you have one
- Seek medical help and make sure someone is always with you
- Use an inhaler to relieve shortness of breath if you have an asthma attack
After medical help arrives, the doctor will give oxygen to help breathing, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, and antihistamines to relieve allergic reactions. If necessary, the doctor will also give another injection of epinephrine .
Intensive treatment will be carried out if the symptoms that appear are very severe. The doctor will monitor the patient's condition until it is stable and the allergy symptoms disappear.
Complications of Peanut Allergy
People with peanut allergies are at risk for anaphylactic shock (anaphylaxis) or a severe allergic reaction. The following are some of the symptoms of anaphylaxis:
- Swelling in the face
- Difficulty swallowing due to swelling in the throat
- Shortness of breath due to narrowing of the respiratory tract
- Heart beat
- Blood pressure drops dramatically, triggering shock
This condition is very dangerous and must be treated immediately by a doctor or medical officer.
Peanut Allergy Prevention
The best way to prevent a nut allergy is to avoid peanuts or other nut-based foods, such as biscuits, breads, cakes, cereals, jams, and candy. Some of the steps below can also be done to prevent peanut allergies:
- Check ingredient labels before buying or eating packaged foods, to make sure they don't contain nuts or pea protein.
- Avoid sharing the use of kitchen utensils or cutlery with others, such as the knife used to spread peanut butter.
- Tell your family, friends, or close relatives that you have a peanut allergy so they can help you avoid peanuts.
- Prepare food from home so you don't have to buy food outside of unknown content.
- Ask the ingredients used before ordering food or drinks at restaurants and avoid those containing nuts.
- Be sure to always carry an injectable epinephrine with you, just in case a severe allergic reaction occurs.
- Introduce your baby to peanuts early, to reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy later in life.
If there is a history of peanut allergy in the family and the child is entering the solids phase , you should consult a pediatrician. Ask the doctor if it's okay to introduce peanut-based foods to your child, or if the child needs to be tested first.