What you need to know

What is peanut allergy? What are the symptoms?

In allergy, the body becomes sensitive to a substance, usually a protein, and responds inappropriately to it. Many people are familiar with minor allergic reactions like hayfever. Food allergies tend to be more severe.

Reactions can vary from very mild and self-limiting, such as a rash, to the life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. A reaction usually begins within minutes of consuming peanuts, but it is important to be aware that sometimes reactions improve and then rapidly become worse several hours later (known as a ‘biphasic’ reaction). In some people the reaction progresses slowly and in others an anaphylactic reaction begins without warning.

Typical reactions include a rash, a bad taste in the mouth, itching, vomiting, and diarrhoea. In more severe anaphylactic reactions, there can be facial swelling, breathing can be affected, and the sufferer can collapse. If treatment is not rapidly received then a severe reaction can quickly become fatal.

Peanut allergy can be particularly dangerous in asthmatics. Anecdotally, peanut allergy often becomes more serious with repeated exposure.

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