Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies.
Peanuts are not the same as tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.), which grow on trees. Peanuts grow underground and are part of a different plant family, the legumes. Other examples of legumes include beans, peas, lentils and soybeans.
Being allergic to peanuts does not mean you have a greater chance of being allergic to another legume.
Keep a wallet sized reference card with you of all the technical and scientific terms wherever you go with a How to Read a Peanut Label card.
Allergic Reactions to Peanuts
Peanuts can cause a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Allergic reactions can be unpredictable, and even very small amounts of peanut can cause one.
Casual skin contact is less likely to trigger a severe reaction. But casual contact can become a problem if the affected area then touches the eyes, nose or mouth. For example, if a child with peanut allergy gets peanut butter on her fingers and rubs her eyes, she can have a reaction.
If you have a peanut allergy, keep an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen®, Auvi-Q™ or Adrenaclick®) with you at all times. Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis.
To prevent a reaction, it is very important that you avoid peanut and peanut products. Always read food labels to identify peanut ingredients.
If you are allergic to peanuts, you have a 25 to 40 percent higher chance of also being allergic to tree nuts.1 Also, peanuts and tree nuts often touch one another during manufacturing and serving processes. Discuss with your allergist whether you need to also avoid tree nuts.
Peanuts are one of the eight major allergens that must be listed on packaged foods sold in the U.S., as required by federal law. Download this resource about how to identify peanut ingredients on food labels.
Avoid foods that contain peanuts or any of these ingredients:
Arachis oil (another name for peanut oil)
Cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil*
Lupin (or lupine)—which is becoming a common flour substitute in gluten-free food. A study showed a strong possibility of cross-reaction between peanuts and this legume, unlike other legumes.
Mandelonas (peanuts soaked in almond flavoring)
Peanut protein hydrolysate
*Highly refined peanut oil is not required to be labeled as an allergen. Studies show that most people with peanut allergy can safely eat this kind of peanut oil. If you are allergic to peanuts, ask your doctor whether you should avoid peanut oil.
But avoid cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil—sometimes called gourmet oils. These ingredients are different and are not safe to eat if you have a peanut allergy.
Will My Child Outgrow a Peanut Allergy?
Allergy to peanuts appears to be on the rise in children. According to a FARE-funded study, the number of children in the U.S. with peanut allergy more than tripled between 1997 and 2008.2 Studies in the United Kingdom and Canada also showed a high prevalence of peanut allergy in school-aged children.
Peanut allergies tend to be lifelong, although studies show that about 20 percent of children with peanut allergy do eventually outgrow their allergy.
Younger siblings of children who are allergic to peanuts may be at higher risk for allergy to peanuts. Your doctor can guide you about testing for siblings. Introducing infants to peanuts early on may help prevent them from developing this food allergy.