- Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies, and it is considered a priority food allergen by Health Canada. Priority food allergens are the foods that cause the majority of allergic reactions.
- Peanuts are a member of the legume family, not related to tree nuts. A person can be allergic to peanuts and not be allergic to tree nuts, or they can be allergic to both.
- Lupin (or lupine) is an ingredient that is increasingly being used in foods, especially gluten-free products. It is a legume belonging to the same plant family as peanuts, and some people are allergic to both. It is recommended for anyone with a peanut allergy to avoid products containing lupin until they have consulted with their allergist.
- It was once considered that all peanut allergies were lifelong. However, some studies have shown that some children may outgrow their peanut allergy. If your child has peanut allergy, consult with your allergist before reintroducing peanut products.
- Many international cuisines use peanuts in food, including, Indonesian (e.g., satays), Thai (e.g., curries), Vietnamese (e.g. crushed peanut as a topping, spring rolls), Indian (e.g., certain curries), and Chinese (e.g. egg rolls, certain sauces).
Allergic reactions to peanut
An allergic reaction usually happens within minutes after being exposed to an allergen, but sometimes it can take place several hours after exposure. Anaphylaxis is the most serious type of allergic reaction.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis generally include two or more of the following body systems:
- Skin: hives, swelling (face, lips, tongue), itching, warmth, redness
- Respiratory (breathing): coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain/tightness, throat tightness, hoarse voice, nasal congestion or hay fever-like symptoms (runny itchy nose and watery eyes, sneezing), trouble swallowing
- Gastrointestinal (stomach): nausea, pain/cramps, vomiting, diarrhea
- Cardiovascular (heart): paler than normal skin colour/blue colour, weak pulse, passing out, dizziness or lightheadedness, shock
- Other: anxiety, sense of doom (the feeling that something bad is about to happen), headache, uterine cramps, metallic taste
However, a drop in blood pressure without other symptoms may also indicate anaphylaxis. It is important to know that anaphylaxis can occur without hives.
If you have an allergy to peanut, keep an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g., EpiPen®) with you at all times. Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).
Be allergy-aware: How to avoid peanut
- Read ingredient labels every time you buy or eat a product. If the label indicates that a product “Contains” or “may contain” peanut, do not eat it. If you do not recognize an ingredient, if there is no ingredient list available, or if you don’t understand the language written on the packaging, avoid the product.
- Do the Triple Check and read the label:
- Once at the store before buying it.
- Once when you get home and put it away.
- Again before you serve or eat the product.
- Always carry your epinephrine auto-injector. It’s recommend that if you do not have your auto-injector with you, that you do not eat.
- Check with manufacturers directly if you are not sure if a product is safe for you.
- Be careful when buying products from abroad since labelling rules differ from country to country.
- Watch for cross-contamination, which is when a small amount of a food allergen (e.g., peanut) gets into another food accidentally, or when it’s present in saliva, on a surface, or on an object. This small amount of an allergen could cause an allergic reaction.
Other names for peanuts
- Arachis oil
- Beer nuts
- Goober nuts, goober peas
- Ground nuts
- Mandelonas, Nu-Nuts (a nut-flavoured peanut confection)
- Nut meats
Possible sources of peanuts
- Almond & hazelnut paste, icing, glazes, marzipan, nougat
- Asian cuisine such as curries, egg rolls, pad thai, satay, Szechuan and other sauces, gravy, soups
- Baked goods like cakes, cookies, donuts, energy bars, granola bars, pastries
- Candies, such as mandelonas, chocolates, and chocolate bars
- Cereals and granola, granola bars
- Chipotle sauce and other Mexican/Latin sauces
- Ice cream and flavoured ice water treats, frozen desserts, frozen yogurts, sundae toppings
- Dried salad dressings and soup mixes
- Hydrolyzed plant protein/ hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Faux nuts made from re-formed peanut products (Nu-NutsTM)
- Peanut oil
- Snack foods such as dried fruits, chewy fruit snacks, trail mixes, popcorn, pretzels, chips
- Vegetarian meat substitutes
- Edible fruit arrangements
Non-food sources of peanuts
- Ant bait, bird feed, mouse traps
- Cosmetics, hair and skin care products, soap, sunscreen
- Craft materials
- Medications, vitamins, and health supplements
- Mushroom growing media
- Pet foods and pet toys
- Sunscreen and other creams
- Stuffing in children’s toys
Note: These lists are not complete and may change.