How is a Peanut Allergy Treated?
If you accidentally eat a peanut or come into contact with peanuts, follow your doctor’s instructions. For a mild reaction, you may only need to take an antihistamine, to reduce or stop your symptoms. If you have had a severe reaction your doctor has probably prescribed a medicine called epinephrine. If you have symptoms in more than one body area, such as mild nausea and an itchy mouth, you would need to give yourself an epinephrine shot.
Even if you feel better after giving yourself a shot, symptoms of anaphylaxis can recur or suddenly appear hours later. You need to be observed in a hospital for several hours after your symptoms go away. If you do not have epinephrine and are having a severe allergic reaction, call your doctor immediately or go to the hospital.
How Do I Give Myself an Epinephrine Shot (EpiPen Shot)?
Step 1: Your epinephrine (EpiPen) injector may have a black or orange tip. Grasp the injector in your hand with the black (or orange) tip pointing down.
Step 2: Form a fist around the injector. Do not touch the tip. With the other hand, pull off the gray (or blue) cap.
Step 3: Hold the black or orange tip close to your outer thigh. Jab the tip firmly into the thigh. Jab through clothing if you must, but bare skin gives the best results. The injector should go straight into the skin, at a 90-degree angle to the thigh. Do not give the shot into a buttock or a vein.
Step 4: Keep the injector in your outer thigh for 10 seconds. Note: It is normal for most of the liquid to be left in the injector. Do not try to inject the remaining liquid.
Step 5: Remove the injector, and place your hand over the area where the medicine entered. Rub the area for about 10 seconds.
Step 6: Put the used injector, needle-end first, into the storage tube of your injector. Do not bend the needle. Go to the emergency room right away, and take the used injector with you.
Symptoms can come back after the EpiPen shot. So, go to the emergency room right away, even if you’re feeling better.
Note: You should feel the effects of the medicine almost right away. These may include a rapid heartbeat and nervousness as well as improved breathing. The benefits of the shot usually last 10 to 20 minutes.
How Can I Prevent an Allergic Reaction to Peanuts?
Step 1: Understand your allergy. Read food labels or ask the staff at restaurants if there are peanuts or peanut oils in any of the foods you order. Some people are severely allergic to peanuts that being near them or breathing air that contains peanut residue can cause an allergic reaction.
Step 2: Let others know that you have a peanut allergy. Make sure that everyone that you see within a day (such as school administrators, teachers, babysitters, friends, coworkers, and coaches) Know what the symptoms of an allergic reaction look like.
Step 3: Know where the epinephrine shot is kept and how to give it.
Step 4: Have a plan to get to the hospital if you have an allergic reaction.
Step 5: Wear a medical alert bracelet. This will alert emergency response workers if you have a severe allergic reaction.
Step 6: Keep your EpiPen with you at all times. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure how to give yourself the shot.
Step 7: Keep other medicines such as antihistamines with you for mild reactions if your doctor recommends it.
What Causes an Allergic Reaction to Peanuts?
- Direct contact. The most common cause of peanut allergy is eating peanuts or foods containing peanuts. Sometimes direct skin contact with peanuts can trigger an allergic reaction.
- Cross-contact. This is the unintended introduction of peanuts into a product. It’s generally the result of a food being exposed to peanuts during production.
- An allergic reaction may occur if you inhale dust or aerosols containing peanuts, from a source such as a peanut flour or peanut oil cooking spray etc.
Do Peanut Allergies Ever Go Away?
Physicians used to think that peanut allergies, particularly severe symptoms, always lasted a lifetime. Over the last decade, however, studies have shown that about 20 percent of children with peanut allergies can overcome the sensitivity. By looking at allergy blood tests, which show IgE levels, doctors can even characterize your chances of outgrowing food allergies.
How Many People are Diagnosed with Peanut Allergies?
Approximately 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with food allergies. Peanuts are the most common source of these allergies, with reactions ranging from minor skin rashes to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. About 8 percent of those with food allergies are children, and most never outgrow them. So far, the only approved treatment for food allergies is avoidance; however, Dr. Thomas Chacko from Northside Allergy is taking a different approach.
What approach is Dr. Chacko taking?
Dr. Chacko is using a process known as oral immunotherapy, or OIT, to gradually desensitize patients to their allergens, so they no longer suffer allergic reactions. This therapy has been used to desensitize hundreds of patients.
The process is similar to that used to treat environmental allergies, such as hay fever. Instead of avoiding peanuts, children are given carefully measured amounts of peanut protein mixed with pudding, yogurt, or applesauce. The starting dose is typically around 0.1 mg. The dose is gradually increased to approximately 6 mg over several hours. If the patient is able to tolerate the protein, they are sent home with individual containers of the dose, which they must take every day. Patients must return to the clinic every couple of weeks where they receive ever-increasing doses. Eventually, patients graduate to eating peanut M&Ms or whole peanuts. Patients are considered desensitized when they can eat about 10 peanuts a day without a reaction. Patients are required to continue on OIT for food allergies is not without its critics. OIT has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (although there are some products that will likely get FDA approved in some years). There are also questions regarding the long-term effectiveness of the treatment. The process is currently being evaluated in several clinical trials.
It isn’t uncommon for patients to experience some symptoms during treatment but that they are usually minor. He states that less than 10 percent of patients have experienced a systemic or anaphylactic reaction. Patients are also advised to take certain precautions to reduce their risk of a severe reaction. OIT is a good option to explore for peanut allergic patients.