Why Are Peanut Allergies So Common?

April 13, 2024

by  | Apr 14, 2024 | Healthy Living

Caramel popcorn with peanuts has always been your favorite treat, but after it landed you in the emergency room, it’s now off-limits. With an allergist appointment on the horizon and two epinephrine auto-injectors in your bag, avoiding peanuts has become your top priority. Let’s look at why peanut allergies are so common and what’s driving this trend.

Understanding Peanut Allergies

Peanut allergies are among the top nine most common food allergies in the U.S., and they’re also among the most severe. Each year, about 200,000 people in the U.S. require emergency treatment for food allergies, including adult-onset cases. Between 2010 and 2017, peanut allergies among children increased by 21%, with an estimated 2.5% of the nation’s children affected.

Why Do People React to Peanuts?

Peanut allergies occur when the immune system mistakes peanut proteins for dangerous invaders, triggering a severe allergic response. Unlike many allergens, peanut proteins aren’t easily broken down in the gut, allowing them to cross into the bloodstream quickly, sometimes causing an allergic reaction within minutes.

Here are a few factors that might contribute to the development of peanut allergies:

  1. Genetics: If one or both parents have allergies, the chances of a child developing peanut allergies are higher. Certain gene regions might be linked to a higher risk of peanut allergies.
  2. Hygiene: The “hygiene hypothesis” suggests that increased cleanliness might lead to immune systems that struggle to differentiate between harmful and harmless substances, leading to allergies.
  3. Vitamin D Deficiency: Lower levels of vitamin D can weaken the immune system, potentially making it more prone to allergic reactions.

Does a Peanut Allergy Mean I’m Allergic to All Nuts?

Not necessarily. Although they’re called nuts, peanuts are actually legumes, like peas and soybeans. However, some people with peanut allergies might also react to tree nuts, such as almonds or walnuts. If you have a peanut allergy, it’s best to test for other nut allergies to avoid cross-contamination and ensure your safety.

Managing Peanut Allergies

To manage peanut allergies, it’s essential to avoid peanuts and be prepared for emergencies. Here are some key steps to help you manage a peanut allergy:

  • Carry Epinephrine Auto-injectors: Always have at least two on hand, and know how to use them in case of an anaphylactic reaction.
  • Read Labels: Peanut proteins can be found in many foods, so always check ingredient lists carefully.
  • Avoid Cross-Contamination: Be aware of surfaces and utensils that might have come into contact with peanuts, especially in restaurants.
  • Keep a Food Diary: If you’re still identifying the allergy, track your reactions to different foods and consult with an allergist for proper testing.
  • Seek Medical Advice: Regular check-ins with your allergist can help manage your allergy and reduce the risk of severe reactions.

Peanut allergies are serious, but with the right precautions and support from our team at AFC Urgent Care Ballantyne, you can manage them safely. If you’re unsure about a food or situation, it’s always better to be cautious. By following these steps and staying vigilant, you can navigate life with a peanut allergy while keeping risks to a minimum.

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