How to Deal With a Peanut Allergy

A peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies. It can be life-threatening, and even a tiny bit of peanuts can trigger a major reaction. Children are more likely to have this allergy, but it can happen to adults as well. Some people grow out of it, but most need to avoid peanuts for the rest of their lives.

A rash, itchy skin, wheezing or difficulty breathing are signs that you might have a serious reaction to a food allergy. You might also have a headache, runny nose or watery eyes. If you have these symptoms, call your doctor right away.

There’s no cure for a peanut allergy, but there are ways to minimize your risk of a severe reaction. Your doctor will probably ask you to keep a food diary so you can figure out which foods may be making you sick. He or she may also order a skin test, which involves placing a small amount of the suspected allergen on your skin and pricking it with a needle. If you’re allergic to peanuts, you’ll develop a raised bump or a reaction. A blood test can also measure your immune system’s response to certain foods by checking the level of allergy-type antibodies in your bloodstream.

You can avoid peanuts by reading food labels and steering clear of restaurants where they’re used. You can also ask your doctor about what’s called an “elimination diet,” which involves cutting out the suspected food and then adding it back in, one at a time.

Foods that contain peanuts or peanut products must say so on the label. It’s a good idea to check labels frequently because ingredients can change, and some foods might be cross-contaminated. It’s important to tell other people about your allergy so they can be extra careful when cooking for you or serving you. It’s also a good idea to carry an emergency epinephrine auto-injector (such as EpiPen, ALLERJECT or Symjepi) with you at all times. Epinephrine can quickly reduce the severity of a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.

Some researchers are testing new treatments that might help prevent a peanut allergy by desensitizing your immune system to the protein that triggers it. They’re experimenting with different methods, such as giving babies and young kids peanuts very early in their lives to see if they can learn to tolerate them without becoming allergic. So far, their research has been promising, but more work needs to be done before this therapy can become standard practice.