By Lisa Green (bio below)
Being diagnosed with a peanut allergy can sometimes feel like a heavy burden, particularly to a parent of a child who loves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or any food that has that nutty taste. Parents immediately feel the need to protect their children from anything associated with nuts becoming a food police officer at snack time to ensure that not a single trace of the food appears in his or her child’s hand.
It is because of this attitude that there are often many misconceptions about peanut allergy and what it entails. Knowing the peanut allergy facts can help clarify what it means to be allergic and what needs to be eliminated from a diet to ensure optimal health. If you or your child has a peanut allergy, we urge you to speak with your allergists about safety measures for your particular case.
1. I get a stomach-ache after eating peanuts. I must be allergic.
While it is possible that you are allergic, you might just have an intolerance to peanuts. An allergic reaction often results in a response from the immune system while intolerance results in symptoms in the digestive region. A doctor can determine if you are allergic through certain tests, such as blood or skin testing or a “peanut challenge,” where you are exposed to peanuts in the safe environment of a doctor’s office in order to gauge your reaction.
2. A doctor diagnosed me as allergic to peanuts, so I can’t have any nuts at all.
This is not the case. Peanuts are actually legumes and not a nut at all! Nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts are considered tree nuts. While having an allergy to peanuts can be coupled with an allergy to tree nuts, the two are not always linked. Check out this recent study linking early peanut protein introduction in 11 month olds to a lower chance of developing a peanut allergy.
Related Post: One Family’s Search For A Peanut Allergy Cure
3. Soybeans are a legume too, so I must be allergic to those as well.
Actually, just because you are allergic to this particular legume does not mean that all are off-limits. If you are concerned or experience similar symptoms, your doctor should test you for other foods in this category, such as soybeans, beans, peas or lentils.
4. Someone who is allergic to peanuts can’t even smell them or they’ll have a reaction.
An allergic reaction to peanuts is caused primarily by consumption but in very rare cases can be caused by airborne contact. Touching or smelling peanuts often causes no reaction, unless the person pushes beyond casual contact. For example, if a child dips his or her finger in peanut butter, there will probably not be an issue; however, should the child touch his or her eye without washing it, there could be a reaction. If someone were to inhale actual peanut dust, they would most likely have a reaction depending on the severity of other breathing conditions they may have including asthma.
5. I’m at risk for a reaction all the time because it’s impossible to figure out what foods have peanuts in them.
The FDA has required all food that is prepared with peanuts or in a facility near peanuts to be marked clearly. Look for this indication near the list of ingredients on the product. And if in doubt, call the manufacturer and ask them to explain the manufacturing process and mention the severity of your peanut allergy. Read this post first for help. The manufacturer will usually be able to tell you if their food is considered safe or not. In the event of eating out at a restaurant, asking your server for a peanut-allergy friendly entrée can help. When in doubt, ask to see the ingredients on a box of pre-packaged food or request to speak to the chef about your concerns.
6. I can’t eat food from certain popular fast food chains because they cook their food in peanut oil.
Most of the time, restaurants advertise the types of oils they use to prepare their foods, which can allow you to safely eat foods that aren’t prepared with peanut oil. But keep in mind, in the process of making highly refined peanut oil, the protein that causes an allergic reaction is actually removed. However, if a dish uses cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil, this is not safe and should not be consumed. It’s best to speak with your allergist to determine if you can safely consume peanut oil – most likely refined will be ok. Read more about peanut allergies and peanut oil here.
The most important thing to remember is that a peanut allergy is a manageable diagnosis, provided that you stay smart. Keep a close eye on ingredients and always consult a doctor if you have any questions or decide to make any changes to you or your child’s lifestyle or diet.
Bio: Lisa Green is a single mother to an opinionated princess diagnosed with a peanut allergy. She works full-time in office management while also writing articles on management, food allergies, DIY tips and more.