Early childhood care

Nut or Peanut Allergy in Children – Preparation to manage it!

Overview

Nut or peanut allergy in children is rapidly growing these days. Kids may be allergic to very common nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts. Peanuts, which actually aren’t a nut but a legume like peas and lentils, also are a common cause of allergy among children.

When you think about an allergy the first things that come to your mind are sneezing and a runny nose due to pollen, etc. However, a nut of peanut allergy can trigger breathing difficulty and some other very dangerous health issues. Hence, avoiding consumption of nuts and peanuts is very critical for anyone with this allergy. It may seem easy but is actually very tricky as nuts are a part of many food items.

How Does Tree Nut or Peanut Allergy in Children Happen?

Generally, your immune system combats infections and doesn’t let you get sick. But when you have a nut allergy, this immune system overreacts to proteins available in the nut. Hence, if a child consumes something containing nuts, the body considers its proteins as harmful invaders and responds by overreacting against those. This process causes an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of Nut or Peanut Allergy in Children

When a child, suffering from a nut allergy, consumes any food item that contains nuts, his/her body starts releasing chemicals like histamine. The release of such chemicals may cause symptoms like –

  • Trouble breathing
  • Throat tightness
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Hoarseness
  • Weezing
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Itchy, watery, or swollen eyes
  • Anxiety
  • Stomachache
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Fainting

Moreover, the reactions to nuts and peanuts vary from person to person. Sometimes, even the same child can react differently to the same nut. In a severe case of nut or peanut allergy, the kid can suffer from anaphylaxis, which is a sudden, deadly allergic reaction. In this condition, the suffering child’s BP may drop dangerously, breathing tubes may narrow, and the tongue may swell too much. Parents of such kids need to be extra cautious with what they eat, and they also need to have a plan to handle emergencies, like having medicines handy to stop the symptoms from getting deadly.

 

What does a doctor do to manage nut or peanut allergy in children?

Usually, allergists treat such problems, but pediatricians can also help in managing the symptoms. To begin with, the doctor asks the patient about the past reactions and time it takes from eating a nut and developing symptoms, such as hives. The doctor also checks family history of eczema or asthma to identify the threat.

The doctor may also carry out a skin test to understand how the patient’s body reacts to the smallest quantity of a particular nut, which is causing the symptoms.

Skin tests are the most recommended method of diagnosing the nut or peanut allergy in kids, but if more information is required, the allergist may also order a blood test.

The doctor may also give a very small quantity of allergy-causing nuts to see how the symptoms develop, but you should never try this on your own as it may prove to be fatal.

Nut or Peanut Allergy in Children Treatment

There are no medicines for the nut or peanut allergies in children. It is almost impossible to outgrow them. The only and the best option to stay safe is to avoid the nut. Parents must be extra cautious while choosing ready-to-eat food, as sometimes they may be containing nuts despite not looking nutty.

One must check the ingredient list before buying or consuming any ready-to-eat food. You should also look for phrases like –

  • “May Contain Tree Nuts” – It means that the manufacturing company of the product hasn’t used nuts in the product, but the manufacturer of the “ingredients” used in the product may have used nuts.
  • “Produced on shared equipment with tree nuts or peanuts” – This means that the manufacturer hasn’t used nuts in the product, but has used the same machinery, utensils, or equipment that was used for manufacturing the nut-containing variant of the product.

Here are some high-risk edibles for kids with allergies –

  • Ice cream
  • Sauces
  • Cookies and baked goods
  • Candy
  • Asian and African foods

To avoid complications, you should get in touch with a doctor who can advise you on how to keep your child safe in a school cafeteria, at restaurants or stadiums where people are opening peanut shells.

What could be an Emergency Plan?

The first step in the emergency plan has to be informing everyone including but not limited to teachers, school nurses, sports coaches, friends and neighbours, about the allergy, its symptoms, and course of action to control it.

The doctors generally advise the patients of anaphylaxis to keep a shot of epinephrine handy to control the symptoms. Apart from this, the doctor may also ask you to carry antihistamine medicine everywhere you go to control mild reactions.

You should never self-administer epinephrine shot or antihistamine medicine unless advised by a doctor. However, these steps are only to keep the symptoms from getting worse quickly. Hence, you must see a doctor immediately for further medical intervention.

Takeaway

Being allergic to specific nuts and peanuts is really common. There isn’t anything to be ashamed of. So, if you mistakenly have consumed something you are allergic to, you should immediately tell your friends, family, teachers, or anyone you see to get quick medical help.

Moreover, it is in your best interest that the maximum number of people in your life are completely aware of your allergies. This practice will help in staying safe even when you are outdoors.

References – [1] – Early clinical predictors of remission of peanut allergy in children
[2] – US prevalence of self-reported peanut, tree nut, and sesame allergy: 11-year follow-up

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