Nut and peanut allergy
Nut and peanut allergies are the second most common food allergy in children. Kids who are hypersensitive to nuts may have an instant and severe reaction to even the smallest quantity of nuts.
What causes nut and peanut allergies
In nut and peanut allergies, like any allergy, the body believes the protein found in nuts is a harmful substance that has to be destroyed. The body releases histamine, the chemical that causes the allergy symptoms.
Are nut and peanut allergies serious?
Nut and peanut allergies can be life-threatening. Exposure to even the smallest quantity of what causes an allergy can result in anaphylaxis, a condition in which the child can stop breathing. An immediate injection of adrenaline can combat the allergic reaction.
Can I prevent nut and peanut allergies?
You can’t prevent food allergies, but you can help prevent further allergic reactions by ensuring that your child avoids foods containing nuts. Although there is no guarantee that a child allergic to peanuts will be allergic to all tree nuts, it may be best to avoid them just to be safe.
How do I know if my child has a nut or peanut allergy?
Symptoms of a nut or peanut allergy may include:
- Hives (raised red patches on the skin), redness, or swelling of the skin
- Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
- Diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting
- Tightening of the chest
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Runny or stuffy nose
How do I treat nut and peanut allergies?
If your child has already had an allergic reaction to nuts and/or peanuts, make sure she wears an alert bracelet. Let her school know about her allergy so that they can help her avoid foods containing nuts. Teach your child how important it is to avoid foods with nuts. Read food labels carefully. You might also want to talk to your doctor about carrying an EpiPen, an emergency dose of injectable adrenaline in case of a severe reaction.
Nut allergies are on the rise, but Allergy NZ says that 20% of young children grow out of their peanut allergy by the age of 5. If a child over the age of 5 has been free of symptoms for more than a year, they may be referred to an allergy specialist for "challenge testing". This happens in a hospital setting, and peanuts are introduced to the child in a controlled way.
Should I call the doctor?
Call the doctor for a diagnosis if you suspect your child has a nut allergy. If your child has any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical treatment as these may be signs of a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis:
- Trouble breathing
- Tightness in the throat
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Loss of consciousness
What you need to know about nut and peanut allergies
- Nut and peanut allergies are becoming more common in children.
- Severe allergic reactions are life threatening.
- Nut allergies are manageable.
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.
Last revised: Thursday, 3 March 2016
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.