As your child grows up, you'll find that their bodies won't agree with certain types of food. They may develop food allergies that you should watch out for, whether mild or life-threatening. One of the most common of which are peanut allergies. But what causes peanut allergy and how can you spot it?
Studies have found that peanut allergy makes up for approximately 28 percent of all food allergies among children. While it's rare for peanut allergy to develop once your child reaches the age of 15, about half of cases of peanut allergy in kids develop before they even have their first birthday.
There is also an increasing prevalence found in Singapore regarding peanut allergy. While only about 0.64% in 4 to 6-year-olds and 0.47% in 14 to 16-year-olds have peanut allergies in Singapore, a recent study by Liew et al found that peanut was still the top cause of anaphylaxis in a local paediatric emergency centre.
If you or your child are found to be allergic to peanuts, it's important to learn all there is to know about it. This way, you can prevent any sudden allergy attacks.
To detect signs of allergies in your child and what causes peanut allergy, here's what you need to know to best protect your child from an allergic reaction.
What Is Peanut Allergy: Causes and Triggers
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Essentially peanut allergy is when the body mistakes peanut for a harmful substance. So if you have peanut allergy and you consume it accidentally, your body may fight it just as it would an infection. This can lead to a life-threatening response and can even be fatal.
MayoClinic says that peanut allergic reactions can occur with both direct and indirect contact which can cause your's child's immune system to release symptom-causing chemicals in your bloodstream.
To elaborate more what causes peanut allergy, here are various ways in which it can be triggered:
- Direct contact. Of course, directly eating peanuts or foods that contain can cause an allergic reaction in your child.
- Cross-contact. Accidents may happen and your child may unintentionally consume food that has already been exposed to peanuts during processing or handling.
- Inhalation. Inhaling dust or aerosols containing peanuts can also trigger an allergic reaction.
While it still unclear why certain people have allergies while others don't, there are risk factors that could indicate a higher chance of developing peanut allergies.
Signs and Symptoms of Peanut Allergy
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According to AllergyUK, signs and symptoms of peanut allergy can occur within minutes of contact but do be mindful that it may also show up an hour later. Allergic reactions to peanuts are most often mild but it can still be severe to the point that it can be life-threatening to both kids and adults.
To check for any signs of peanut allergy in your child, here are the symptoms as listed down by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI):
- Swelling of skin; can also affect the tongue and/or lips
- Stomach cramps
- Difficulty in breathing or wheezing
- Tightening of throat
- An itchy or tingling feeling in mouth and throat
- Skin paling
Peanut allergy becomes deadly when one experiences a severe allergic reaction. The most dangerous reaction to peanuts is known as anaphylaxis. This is said to be a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment with epinephrine (adrenaline) through an auto-injector. Depending on the situation, it may also require a trip to the emergency room.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis according to Mayo Clinic are:
- Airway constriction
- Swelling of throat
- Severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
Risk Factors of Peanut Allergies
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Watch out for the following risk factors:
- Age. Children are at more risk of developing food allergies as compared to adults for when your digestive system matures, your grown-up body is less likely to react to food that triggers allergies.
- Past allergy to peanuts. You may be able to outgrow your peanut allergies but it may still recur when you grow up.
- Other allergies. Being allergic to one food can already increase the risk of you becoming allergic to more.
- Family members with allergies. Your child can be at risk of developing a peanut allergy if other food allergies are common within your family.
Treatment For Peanut Allergies And When To Consult A Doctor
As of now, there is currently no cure specifically for peanut allergy but there are still ways to treat this condition.
To manage your kid's peanut allergies, it's important to be extra careful in the food that they eat. The ACAAI warns that peanuts and other peanut products might be found in certain candies, cereals as well as baked goods such as cookies, cakes and pies.
Other foods that may contain no sign of peanuts may still have been contaminated by peanuts whether in the manufacturing process or during food preparation. So, it is safe to say that you should avoid products that indicate statement labels such as "may contain peanuts" or made in a "factory that uses nut ingredients."
"There is evidence that earlier safe and supervised introduction of peanut and egg in the weaning diets of these high risk individuals appears to improve their food allergy outcomes as opposed to strict avoidance of these potentially highly allergenic foods. However, caution needs to be given to these families as significant reactions can occur," Paediatrician Dr Chiang Wen Chin from Mount Elizabeth Hospital tells CNA.
It is still best to consult your doctor whenever any signs or symptoms of peanut allergy are detected on your child. This is especially if your little one is experiencing a severe reaction to peanuts such as anaphylaxis.
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