Recognizing Peanut Allergy Symptoms Makes it easier to Seek Treatment

Although no scientific study has yet revealed precisely what causes a peanut allergy in some people, it’s a relatively common condition. Those who have such an allergy may have symptoms that range from a minor irritation to a life-threatening reaction. Understanding the symptoms can help sufferers to seek appropriate treatment when a reaction occurs.

People experiencing a mild reaction when exposed to peanuts or peanut products have symptoms that are similar to those that affect people suffering from hay fever and other allergies. A runny nose or an itchy rash on the skin may indicate an irritation. The lips or tongue may tingle, the stomach may begin to ache, and hives may develop.

Slightly more serious reactions may cause tightening of the throat, which results in a hoarse speaking voice, coughing, and wheezing. These heightened symptoms may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Increased pain in the stomach and diarrhea may follow later.

In its most severe form, a peanut allergy can bring on life-threatening symptoms. This reaction is known as anaphylaxis. Generally speaking, anaphylaxis is most common on a second exposure to peanuts or peanut products. Upon the allergy sufferer’s first contact with peanuts, their body misidentifies the peanuts as a dangerous substance and their body becomes sensitized. The second contact with peanuts often triggers anaphylaxis.

When anaphylaxis begins, the body is flooded with histamines and other chemicals. Blood vessels become enlarged in the flood, and the blood pressure can drop to dangerously low levels. The blood vessels may begin to leak, which causes swelling and hives. The lungs are affected as well. Airways become constricted and breathing becomes labored. The throat may also begin to swell. Some people lose consciousness as the symptoms progress. This type of reaction can occur within minutes of exposure, but sometimes the symptoms do not appear for several hours after exposure.

The best way to control these symptoms is by avoiding peanuts. However, this is not always possible, so it’s necessary to be prepared for a reaction. Allergy sufferers who have mild reactions may be able to deal with their symptoms by using over-the-counter antihistamine medications. People who tend to have more severe symptoms are usually required to carry an injection device with epinephrine at all times. The syringe is easy to use, and doctors can counsel patients about how and when it should be used.