Peanuts are America’s favorite nut1. According to recent research, 94 percent of U.S. households have at least one jar of peanut butter in their pantry2. Our love for peanut butter starts in childhood – with the PB&J being a favorite sandwich for kids and adults alike.
The good news is that more than 99 percent of Americans can enjoy peanuts without any issue3. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Expert Panel, peanut allergies affect just 0.6 percent of us – and fall behind milk and eggs in children and behind shellfish among adults in prevalence4.
For those with a true food allergy, however, reactions can be unpredictable – from person to person and episode to episode. That’s why they must be taken seriously. If you suspect you or a loved one has a food allergy, it’s important to get a diagnosis from a trained allergist. And if it turns out you have an allergy, work to develop an emergency action plan and be proactive about educating yourself.
According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), symptoms of a food allergic reaction may include one or more of the following 7:
The most severe reaction is called anaphylaxis. During anaphylaxis, allergic symptoms can affect several areas of the body and may threaten breathing and blood circulation. If you’re with someone who is having an allergic reaction and shows signs of anaphylaxis, it’s important to act quickly.
According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team, for those who are severely allergic, ingesting even a trace amount of peanuts can cause a reaction, but skin contact and smelling peanuts are unlikely to cause systemic reactions or anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis may occur due to ingestion, but research supports that people with peanut allergies are highly unlikely to have serious reactions as the result of casual contact with peanut proteins. If symptoms do occur, it generally includes sneezing, running nose and/or coughing8.
You should always consult an allergist if you have concern about a food allergy. Working with an allergist who is familiar with your health history would assist in managing a food allergy risk.
From 1997 to 2007, the prevalence of all reported food allergies has increased by 18 percent among children, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)9. A FARE-funded study found the number of children in the U.S. with peanut allergy more than tripled between 1997 and 200810. No one knows the real reason why, but scientists have a variety of theories.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exempts highly refined peanut oil – typically used for frying – from being labeled as a peanut allergen because the allergenic protein has been removed during the refining process. However, cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil is still allergenic – usually found as aromatic or gourmet oils. Those with a peanut allergy should always ask for clarification if they are unsure about which oil is being used.
10 Sicherer SH, Munoz-Furlong A, Godbold JH, Sampson HA. US prevalence of self-reported peanut, tree nut, and sesame allergy: 11-year follow-up. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010; 125(6):1322-6. [LINK to ADVANCING A CURE>FARE Research Grants>Selected Completed Studies > Sicherer, Prevalence of Peanut and Tree Nut Allergy in the United States]