A Bit About Peanut Allergies

*For my Writing for Interactive Media Class I picked Food Allergies as my topic. I’ll be re-posting my assignments here for your enjoyment. I’m not an expert, this is just me trying to learn more and share what I learn. Here’s a bit about peanut allergies*

Do you ever wonder why someone who is allergic to peanuts might be totally fine with eating other nuts, such as walnuts? You might have noticed that some people are allergic to tree nuts, but not peanuts. They’re both nuts, right? Wrong. Peanuts are actually legumes, like beans and lentils. They grow underground, and all you see while they’re developing are their pretty leafy greens and flowers. This is why hazelnuts are still the most delicious nut (personal opinion), while peanut butter is my favorite thing in the whole world.

It’s completely reasonable to confuse tree nut allergies and peanut allergies (I get tripped up by it all the time). They’re the two most common types of food allergies, and according to everydayhealth.com about a third of the people who are allergic to tree nuts are also allergic to peanuts, and vice versa.

How does a peanut allergy develop? Doctors aren’t 100% sure. They still flip-flop over whether eating peanuts while pregnant can be a factor, or what age is OK to start introducing kids to peanut butter, and many other aspects of the allergy. They do know that the allergic reactions are tied to the proteins in the peanut, since all real food allergies are based on proteins. This might explain why someone with a peanut allergy might not be allergic to peanut oil depending on how it’s produced.

So what can you do if you think you might be developing an allergy to peanuts? First: stop eating peanuts. Second: go talk to your doctor or allergist.

There is some hope for people with a peanut allergy. There have been studies and trials about desensitizing patients to peanuts by having them ingest increasing amounts of peanut flour in a very controlled environment. The goal is not to cure the patients (although that would be fantastic) but instead to make their allergy not quite so dire.

It would be great if this turns out to be a viable treatment. I can’t even imagine how stressful it must be to worry about if my meal was cooked near peanuts, if there are peanut shells in my landscaping products, wondering about seemingly innocent products such as cake icing and soups, and many other concerns.

If you’re curious about other types of trials and treatments, check out how many trials the Children’s Hospital of Chicago is currently running.