Allergic reactions can vary depending on the person. While often mild, they can sometimes be very serious. In young children, nut allergies, including peanuts, are increasingly becoming more common. These allergies are sometimes severe and can be life-threatening. An allergic reaction can begin in minutes, within a short time of coming into contact with peanuts or other allergens. Sometimes, an hour or so is enough to trigger allergic symptoms in a body.
What Are Allergies?
An allergy occurs when the body’s immune system, assumes a substance (referred to as an allergen) can cause infection, that it is programmed to fight. The world has many, many allergens, and most of them can be deemed as harmless. These allergens have no reaction whatsoever on people who are not allergic to them. Nuts such as peanut (actually not nuts but legumes like peas, channa daal, and beans), walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans and pistachios can act as allergens, and can cause an allergic reaction in some people. When the immune system perceives a substance as an allergen, a group of cells in the body called mast come into action. Mast cells release a substance called histamine that causes the miniscule blood vessels in the tissues to leak fluid resulting in the swelling of the tissue. All of this can lead to varied results.
Can Toddlers Have Peanut Allergy?
Children under the age of 3 years have been found to be more prone to food allergies. Statistics estimate that around one in every fourteen children less than three has at least one food allergy. Children who have food allergies to milk, eggs, fish, soya and wheat usually outgrow them as they grow older. Most children outgrow food allergies by the time they attain the school going age.
However, peanut and other nut allergies are usually more permanent. It is estimated that four out of five children with peanut allergies will remain allergic to peanuts for the rest of their lives.
Diagnosis Of Peanut Allergy In Toddlers
While there are tests to discover allergies, in most cases a peanut or nut allergy is discovered after an allergic reaction has occurred and a prognosis is attained after elimination. Doctors do try and measure the impact of peanuts on your skin by scratching some skin and placing very little amount of liquefied peanuts on it. Then the doctor will watch out for the reactions that the body gives. A reaction can have multiple symptoms occurring at the same time. It can include some or all of the following symptoms:
- A skin rash that looks like hives or welts (you would be able to draw a similarity between a red rash and a mosquito bite)
- A tingling feeling in or around the mouth usually noticed in children above 3
- Gastroenteritis related symptoms such as stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea
- Swelling in the face or adjoining areas
In babies and small infants, rashes and diarrhea are the symptoms that are usually caught.
P.S: If you think your child has a peanut allergy, do not try to conduct this test at home by yourself. Always clear your doubts by taking your child to a medically qualified doctor who specializes in allergies.
Symptoms Of Severe Allergy In Children
Anyphylaxis is used to describe a more severe allergic reaction. Any of the above symptoms of a moderate allergic reaction, in conjunction with one of the symptoms
below point to a more severe reaction:
- Breathing heavily, noisily and with difficulty
- Swelling of the tongue or swelling or tightness in the throat
- Difficulty talking or talking in a hoarse voice
- Loss of consciousness and/or collapse
Infants and young children can also become pale and floppy.
Prevention And Treatment For Peanut Allergies
If the body perceives peanuts as a harmful substance, it will trigger a reaction to fight the allergen – in this case peanuts. Some people can have skin rashes even if they do not eat peanuts and just happen to touch them. Avoiding peanuts would be the best way to prevent peanut allergies, but given how much peanuts do form a part of so many foods, this could be tricky and tough.
There is no cure for peanut allergies but given then danger every precaution should be taken to prevent an allergic reaction in your child by:
- Stay informed about what your child is eating – make sure you avoid food sources of nuts and peanuts. Also, make your child aware of any such foods that may contain nuts
- Tell your child not to share his food. Exchange of tiffins or lunch boxes should be avoided
- Ensuring that the school or daycare only gives foods that you approve of or only gives food that you have provided
- For teachers: using non-food treats where possible
- Ensuring your child and her caregivers always wash their hands after play and before eating, and tables should be wiped down after eating
- Avoid eating out but if you have to ensure the food is nut free and wipe down tables before sitting there
- Carry safe food wherever you go
- Ensure your child has a medical kit wherever he is and all caregivers know how to react in case of an allergic reaction
You must yourself get into the habit of reading food labels very clearly, checking out the ingredients and watching for the phrases like ‘may contain nuts’ or produced on ‘equipment where nuts and peanuts co-exist’. Less obvious foods may contain peanuts or traces of peanuts, either because they were made with them or because they came in contact with them during the manufacturing process.
Foods That Can Be Avoided If Your Child Has A Peanut Allergy
The following foods often contain peanuts:
- Ground or mixed nuts and namkeen packets
- Bakery items such as certain breads, cookies and pastries
- Certain cooking oils
- Ice creams, chocolates, energy bars
- Cereals and granola
- Many Indian, Oriental and Mexican dishes
- Pet food
Nowadays most foods contain labels listing the ingredients and warnings about being made in the same facility as nuts. Hence, with a little care, peanut and other nut allergies can be easily controlled.