The Big 8

Eight foods, or “The Big 8”, account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in the U.S.: peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.  Allergy to peanuts appears to be on the rise. One study showed that from 1997 to 2002, the incidence of peanut allergy doubled in children. Peanuts can trigger a severe reaction. The severity of a reaction depends on how sensitive an individual is and the quantity consumed.

Unexpected Sources of Peanuts:

  • Sauces such as chili sauce, hot sauce, pesto, gravy, mole sauce, and salad dressing
  • Cookies, and hot cocoa
  • Egg rolls
  • Potato pancakes
  • Pet foods
  • Gourmet pizzas
  • Asian and Mexican dishes
  • Vegetarian meat substitute products
  • Glazes and marinades

Keep In Mind

  • Some alternative nut butters, such as soy nut butter or sunflower seed butter, are produced on equipment shared with other tree nuts and, in some cases, peanuts.
  • Contact the manufacturer before eating these products.
  • Discuss with your primary doctor or allergist whether to avoid tree nuts. People allergic to peanuts may develop allergies to other foods, including tree nuts. In addition, the chance of a reaction due to cross-contact between peanut and tree nuts during the manufacturing process will be lowered if you avoid them altogether.
  • Ice cream served in ice cream parlors should be avoided; cross-contact occurs frequently because of shared scoops.
  • Sometimes, foods that are supposed to contain almonds or other tree nuts contain peanuts instead.
  • Peanuts go by many names, such as ground nuts, beer nuts, or monkey nuts. Use caution if you are unsure!
  • Studies show that most allergic individuals can safely eat peanut oil (not cold pressed, expelled, or extruded peanut oil – sometimes represented as gourmet oils).
  • If you are allergic to peanuts, ask your doctor whether or not you should avoid peanut oil.
  • Younger siblings of children allergic to peanuts may be at increased risk for allergy to peanuts. Your doctor can provide guidance about testing for siblings.
  • Peanuts can be found in many foods and candies, especially chocolate candy. Check all labels carefully. Contact the manufacturer if you have questions.
  • Peanuts can cause severe allergic reactions. If prescribed, carry TWO auto-injectors at all times.
  • Some companies use peanut hulls in compost, which can be added as top-dressing on lawns. Before you hire a contractor, inquire about the use of peanut hulls in compost so that you can make an informed decision.

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Peanut Allergy

Peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of severe allergy attacks. Peanut allergy symptoms can be life-threatening (anaphylaxis). For some people with peanut allergy, even tiny amounts of peanuts can cause a serious reaction. Peanut allergy has been increasing in children. Even if you or your child has had only a mild allergic reaction to peanuts, it’s important to talk to your doctor. There is still a risk of a more serious future reaction.

Symptoms

An allergic response to peanuts usually occurs within minutes after exposure. Peanut allergy signs and symptoms can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Skin reactions, such as hives, redness or swelling
  • Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
  • Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting
  • Tightening of the throat
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing

Anaphylaxis:  Life Threatening Symptoms

Peanut allergy is the most common cause of food-induced anaphylaxis, a medical emergency that requires treatment with an epinephrine (adrenaline) injector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, Twinject) and a trip to the emergency room.

Anaphylaxis signs and symptoms can include:

  • Constriction of airways
  • Swelling of the throat that makes it difficult to breathe
  • A severe drop in blood pressure (shock)
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness

Talk to your doctor if you have had any signs or symptoms of peanut allergy. Seek emergency treatment if you have a severe reaction to peanuts, especially if you have any signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you or someone else displays severe dizziness, severe trouble breathing or loss of consciousness.

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