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Peanut Allergy, Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Complications

Peanut allergies are allergic reactions that occur as a result of the body misinterpreting nuts-based foods as a dangerous allergen. In this condition, the body's defense system will react to these allergens and can sometimes have a quite fatal effect, such as anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock is a condition in which blood pressure will decrease dramatically and the airway will narrow, so that breathing is blocked. However, not all sufferers experience this condition.

Anyone can experience a peanut allergy, even though most sufferers are children. See a doctor immediately if you or your child has a peanut allergy, both in mild or severe levels.

Causes of Peanut Allergy

Allergies occur when the body's defense system misinterprets the allergen as a dangerous substance, so the body will produce a chemical called histamine in the blood. This histamine can spread and affect various body tissues such as the skin, eyes, respiratory tract, nose, lungs, intestines and blood vessels. Peanut allergies too, namely the body recognizes peanut protein as a dangerous substance. 

Peanut Allergy

Peanut allergies do not always react when someone is eating peanuts. There are cases where the patient is very sensitive, so he develops allergies when inhaling the smell of peanuts or touching beans directly. Until now, there is no clear reason why these different levels of sensitivity can occur.

The potential for developing a peanut allergy will be higher in:

  • Children, and usually begin when they are 14 months to 2 years old and continue into adulthood.
  • Adults who have had peanut allergies or other food allergies while still children. Unlike other allergies, allergies to peanuts tend to settle down and cannot be removed or cured. Only about 20% of patients are able to recover when they grow up.
  • Patients who have families with the same history of peanut allergies or other similar food allergies.
  • People who have atopic dermatitis or excessive sensitivity to the skin.

Peanut Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of peanut allergy usually begin to appear in seconds to several hours after consuming or touching nuts, such as:

  • Rashes, itching, and swelling of the skin.
  • Swelling of the face.
  • Itching or discomfort around the mouth and throat.
  • Cold.
  • The throat feels like it's suffocating.
  • Short breath.
  • Nausea.
  • Gag.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Abdominal cramps.

For those who experience severe reactions or anaphylaxis, some of the symptoms that may be seen are:

  • Narrowing and swelling of the respiratory tract.
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue and certain body parts.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Blood pressure drops dramatically.
  • Shock.
  • Heartbeat beats fast.
  • Dizzy.
  • Fainted.

Thirty percent of peanut allergy sufferers experience aftershock within 8 hours after the first attack. See a doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of peanut allergy, whether mild or severe, so that you can be treated appropriately and avoid further complications.

Diagnosis of Peanut Allergy

At first, the doctor will usually do a physical test and ask about the food consumed, the duration and frequency of symptoms that appear, until your allergy history and family.

If it is still unclear whether your allergies are caused by nuts or other foods, doctors will usually advise patients to use the food elimination method. In this test, the patient will be asked not to eat peanuts for one or two weeks, then the patient is asked to return to his original diet while recording everything he consumes. This test is not entirely safe, and must be carried out according to the doctor's instructions.

In addition to asking about symptoms, conducting a physical examination, and carrying out a food elimination test, your doctor may suggest several allergic tests such as:

  • Blood test. This test is done to check the levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies or levels of allergen antibodies in the body.
  • Skin test. This test is done by placing food with allergens suspected of being a trigger on the patient's skin and stabbed with a needle. If certain reactions occur, the patient may experience peanut allergies or intolerance to certain foods.
  • Food test. In this test, the doctor will provide various foods with and without peanut protein content. Furthermore, the patient will be observed for approximately 30 minutes to see whether or not an allergic reaction has occurred. This test is usually done in the hospital so that it can be treated directly if a severe reaction occurs.

Peanut Allergy Treatment

Until now, there is no treatment that can cure peanut allergy completely, but there are several ways to relieve symptoms. In addition to avoiding foods and drinks with peanut protein content, the following medicines can be a supporter:

  • Antihistamine drug, to relieve symptoms of patients with peanut allergies with mild levels. This medicine is usually taken when allergy symptoms begin to appear, or accidentally consume foods or drinks with peanut content. Usually, this antihistamine drug will react in about 15-20 minutes after you drink it.
  • Epinephrine (adrenaline) medication, to relieve symptoms of severe peanut allergy. This drug is usually prescribed in the form of pen-shaped injections to react quickly. This drug must be injected immediately to prevent symptoms from worsening.

Because patients can develop peanut allergies at any time, they are strongly advised to take the medicine at any time and tell the closest person how to use it. To maximize the effect of the drug, make sure the drug is in good condition and does not expire. If the condition worsens, immediately see a doctor or go to the nearest hospital.

At present, there are studies that find that immunotherapy or desensitization can be the best way to restore peanut allergies and other foods. This is done by increasing the body's tolerance to allergens. Although this therapy has succeeded in helping patients with pollen allergies and insect poisons, until now this therapy is still being developed to restore food allergic patients (especially peanut allergies) because of the severity and complications that can occur, such as anaphylactic reactions.

Prevention of Peanut Allergy

Although sometimes difficult, there are several ways you can do to prevent peanut allergies, such as:

  • Check the composition of the ingredients in the packaging to make sure food or drink is free from using peanut protein.
  • Do not consume food or drinks that you are not sure of.
  • Always ask for food items used by waiters or sellers when buying food or drinks from outside.
  • Tell your family or closest friends about your allergies so that they don't serve food or drinks with these ingredients.

In addition to directly containing peanut protein, you are also advised to find out foods or drinks that can indirectly contain beans, such as:

  • Biscuits.
  • Cake.
  • Chocolate nougat.
  • Ice cream.
  • Pudding.
  • Cereals.
  • Granola.
  • Soup.
  • Packaging box.
  • Wheat bread.
  • Snack.
  • Honey.
  • Vegetarian food.
  • Salad.
  • Indonesian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Mediterranean, African and Mexican specialties that may contain peanut protein.

Under certain conditions, some products such as shampoo, lotion, and animal food can also contain peanut protein when produced. You must make sure and find out before buying a product.
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