Peanut/Nut Allergies

What are peanut/nut allergies?

A Tree Nut Allergy is a hypersensitivity to the protein contained in tree nuts. This causes the immune system to overreact. As a result, patients observe physical symptoms that may range from mild itchiness or pruritus to eczema, facial swelling, asthma, blood pressure drop and even cardiac arrest or anaphylaxis. Some of most common types of nuts to cause these reactions are: cashews, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pine nuts and pistachios. However, most people are allergic to all or a few of these nuts, not just to a single type.

A Peanut Allergy is also related to the patients’ inability to digest the protein contained in the peanuts and therefore the immune system attacks it, treating the protein as a foreign substance. The Peanut Allergy also bears a significant difference from the nut allergy: it is classified as a type one reaction. Moreover, the reaction is far more severe – this is the number one cause of death by food-related anaphylaxis.

What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is the most serious allergic reaction. Due to the fact that it onsets rapidly, it can lead to death if not caught in time. In a nutshell, anaphylaxis can cause itchiness, low blood pressure and throat swelling to such a degree that the patient’s airways are completely shut, preventing the organism to get oxygen.

The first aid for someone in anaphylactic shock consists of injecting epinephrine (people who suffer from allergies usually carry an  epinephrine injector at all times) and positioning the patient flat until the arrival of the ambulance.

Peanut/Nut Allergies Statistics at a Glance

  • While the exact causes of food allergies are unknown, research shows that, if a parent suffers from any type of food allergy, the child had a 1 in 3 chance to also suffer from one (not necessarily the same). The chances grow to 7 in 10 when both parents suffer from allergies.
  • According to JACI (Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology), approximately 3 million Americans suffer from peanut allergy. This is an astounding 1%, a number that is constantly rising (the peanut allergy occurrence in children has tripled between 1997 and 2008 in The United States).
  • Approximately 500.000 Americans are allergic to one or more types of nuts.
  • Every 3 minutes, a person is admitted into the emergency room due to a food allergy.
  • Between 100 and 150 people die because of peanut allergy every year, only in the US.
  • While a few people report that their allergic reactions have diminished over time, the vast majority states that the allergies have only worsened.

Peanut Allergy Symptoms

  • Skin: redness, hives or swelling
  • Tingling or itching around the mouth and surrounding areas
  • Stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Anaphylaxis – the most severe manifestation of an allergy that can result in blood pressure drop and suffocation. This reaction might be lethal.

If you notice anyone around you having these symptoms, don’t wait until it’s too late and the person goes into an anaphylactic shock! Apply first aid measures (as described above) and immediately call for an ambulance. Even if you have an epinephrine injector at hand, the patient may require medical observation and further treatment, as anaphylaxis can reoccur.

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