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February 15, 2006

Peanut Allergy article - a good overview

Although a bit dated, here is a pretty good article from teenshealth.com about Nut and Peanut Allergy...

Oh, nuts! They sure can cause you trouble if you're allergic to them - and a growing number of kids are these days. So what kind of nuts are we talking about? Peanuts, for one, though they aren't truly a nut. (They're a legume [say: leh-gyoom] like peas or lentils.) A person could also be allergic to nuts that grow on trees, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, and cashews.

When you think of allergies, you might picture lots of sneezing and loads of runny noses. But unlike a mild allergy to spring flowers, a nut or peanut allergy can cause difficulty breathing and other very serious health problems. That's why it's very important for someone with a nut or peanut allergy to avoid eating nuts and peanuts, which can be tough because they're in lots of foods.

Why Does the Body Go Nuts Over Nuts?
When someone has a food allergy, his or her body sort of misfires. Instead of treating a nut or peanut like any old food, the body reacts as if the nut or peanut is harmful. In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system produces antibodies (special chemicals designed to fight infections) against that food.

The antibodies then cause mast cells (which are a type of immune system cell in the body) to release chemicals into the bloodstream, one of which is histamine (say: his-tuh-meen). The histamine then causes symptoms in a person's eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract.

A person with nut or peanut allergies could have a mild reaction - or it could be more severe. An allergic reaction could happen right away or a few hours after the person eats it. Some of the first signs that a person may be having an allergic reaction could be a runny nose, an itchy skin rash such as hives, or a tingling in the tongue or lips. Other signs include:

* tightness in the throat
* hoarse voice
* wheezing
* cough
* nausea
* vomiting
* stomach pain
* diarrhea

In the most serious cases, a nut or peanut allergy can cause anaphylaxis (say: ah-nuh-fuh-lak-sis). This is a sudden, severe allergic reaction in which several problems occur all at once and can involve the skin, breathing, digestion, the heart, and blood vessels. A person's blood pressure can drop, breathing tubes can narrow, and the tongue can swell. People at risk for this kind of a reaction have to be very careful and need a plan for handling emergencies, when they might need to get special medicine to stop these symptoms from getting worse.

How Is a Nut or Peanut Allergy Diagnosed?
If your doctor thinks you might have a nut or peanut allergy, he or she will probably send you to see a doctor who specializes in allergies. The allergy specialist will ask you about past reactions and how long it takes between eating the nut and getting the symptom, such as hives. The allergist also may ask about whether anyone else in your family has allergies or other allergy-related conditions, such as eczema or asthma. Researchers aren't sure why some people have food allergies and others don't, but they often run in families.


Posted by David at February 15, 2006 8:59 AM