Peanuts

Causes and Symptoms

Published on Saturday, 23 June 2012 22:33

Causes

A peanut allergy occurs when the immune system treats a protein in peanuts as a threat to the body. The immune system releases antibodies to fight the “threatening” substance, which is the protein in the peanut. Immunoglobulin E, or IgE, is an antibody that is produced by the body to attack the food protein (the antigen).  Once the antibodies have contact with the antigen it signals an attack on the protein by releasing histamine and other chemicals. These chemicals cause the allergic symptoms.

There are a few ways that a person with a peanut allergy may experience a reaction: ingestion, cross-contamination (when peanuts are accidentally included in food during food processing; therefore, food labels often state “may contain nuts” in the ingredient portion), and when particles like peanut dust, peanut flour or cooking sprays containing peanuts are inhaled. 

Symptoms

  • Wheezing, difficulty breathing
  • Runny nose, congestion
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the lips, eyes, face, tongue and/or throat
  • Mouth tingles or is itchy
  • Skin rash (note: eczema is a common skin condition often associated with food allergies, see your doctor for proper diagnosis)
  • Diarrhea
  • Loose stools
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Asthma
  • Anaphylaxis (can occur in some severe cases) Anaphylaxis is when the throat swells, making breathing difficult because the airways constrict.  Other symptoms may include a rapid pulse, dizziness, shock, and lightheadedness.  This is life threatening and needs to be treated immediately by a clinician.