PB&Js and packages of peanuts used to be a common sight in lunchrooms across America. But it’s become a thing of the past in most communities since a startling rise in allergic reactions to peanuts among children.
Studies show that peanut allergies in children rose 21% between 2010 and 2017, affecting 2-10% of American kids. But this phenomenon isn’t unique to the United States. Food allergies, including those to peanuts, are increasing in most Western populations, including the UK, Australia, and Europe.
And there’s reason to pay attention to these rising numbers — allergic reactions to peanuts are most frequently associated with anaphylaxis, a sudden and life-threatening response.
The Advance Allergy & Asthma team knows the dangers of food allergies, especially peanuts. If you’ve ever wondered why these reactions are rising, here’s what you need to know.
The danger of peanut allergies
As mentioned above, a food allergy to this item tends to trigger the most severe allergic reaction possible, anaphylaxis. When this occurs, a person can experience:
- Swelling in the throat, lips, or tongue
- A drop in blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Blue lips or pale skin
They can also come on suddenly, which means you need epinephrine treatment immediately to avoid life-threatening complications. As a result, peanuts are 1 of 8 allergens required to have specific labeling instructions under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004.
It’s also crucial that people with a peanut allergy exercise extreme caution about what they eat. This item can appear in numerous products, even where you least expect it — from candies, baked goods, and sauces to cuisines with common ingredients, like Asian and Mexican foods.
Foods that don’t contain peanuts can become contaminated during food preparation or manufacturing.
The rise in peanut allergies
Since peanuts are so common, it’s certainly curious that allergies have more than tripled in recent decades. While numerous studies have searched for definitive reasons, it seems more likely that various factors come into play.
One likely cause of increased peanut allergies has to do with improved hygiene.
This theory shows that exposing children to germs and certain infections at a very early age helps their immune system develop, giving them better skills to differentiate between a harmless and harmful substances. Without this exposure, a child is more likely to develop allergies.
Another potential cause for the rise in peanut allergies is vitamin D. This essential nutrient helps maintain the immune system. However, most people don’t get enough vitamin D; in the US alone, deficiencies in this vitamin have nearly doubled in about a decade.
The result? An immune system is more susceptible to allergic reactions.
Finally, there is strong evidence that genes can help form food allergies. Studies show that approximately 20% of peanut allergies have links to the HLA-DR and -DQ gene regions on a chromosome.
However, more research is needed to understand better the genetic risks that can come into play with assessing and predicting food allergies.
Learning more about peanut allergies
Peanut allergies may rise, but that doesn’t mean you have to kick these legumes to the curb just yet.
Our team recommends working with an allergist if you have a history of food allergies or a child at risk. We can guide you through a safe assessment so we can determine whether an allergy is present or could develop.
Based on our findings, we can outline the best steps to avoid future dangerous health complications.
Do you need more information on peanut allergies? Contact Advanced Allergy & Asthma to schedule a consultation with one of our experts in Ogden, Utah, today.