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When you think about food allergy, you may immediately think about peanuts. There are actually more children who are allergic to dairy than to peanuts, and more adults who are allergic to shellfish than to peanuts. But peanut allergy is probably the most talked about of all food allergies because peanuts often trigger the most serious symptoms of all food allergies.
What is a food allergy?
When we eat most foods, our body recognizes the food particles as something good for the body. But when we are allergic to a particular food, called an allergen, the body sees it as a threat and creates antibodies to fight the dangerous particles. Food allergy can cause a variety of symptoms including hives, swelling around the mouth, itchy skin, runny nose, and stomach problems including nausea and diarrhea. The most serious allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, which is a full body reaction that can make the tongue and airway swell and cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. Anaphylaxis makes it hard to breathe and can result in death.
Problems with peanuts
People with peanut allergy are more likely than people with other food allergies to develop anaphylaxis. Eating peanuts or any food containing peanut products, such as peanut butter or peanut oil, is one way to trigger a reaction. One of the problems with peanut allergies is that some people are so sensitive they can have a reaction just by touching a surface that has peanut residue on it. This is one of the reasons peanut products are banned from the classroom of a child with peanut allergy. It is too easy to get a smear of peanut butter on something that will trigger a reaction.
Some people with peanut allergies fear they can have an allergic reaction just by smelling peanuts in the air. While there is no scientific support for the scent of peanuts causing a reaction, it is possible for someone who is very sensitive to peanuts to have a reaction after inhaling dust or sprays containing peanut particles, such as peanut flour or peanut oil cooking spray.
Cross-contamination with peanuts