Peanuts are one of the most common foods people can be allergic to. This page aims to tell you all about peanuts and peanut allergies.
The Facts About Peanuts
- Peanuts account for some of the highest numbers of severe allergic reactions.
- Contrary to common belief, peanuts are not nuts. They are, in fact, a type of legume. The category of 'legumes' also includes foods like beans and lentils. Peanuts come from the ground, whilst other nuts come from trees - hence the term 'tree nuts'.
- Although peanuts belong to the same family as beans and lentils, this does not mean these foods are not safe to try. The cross-reactivity between these foods is extremely small, and we therefore would not routinely advise avoidance of other legumes unless your child is known to react to these.
- Being allergic to peanuts does not necessarily mean you will be allergic to all other nuts. This can be reviewed in the children's allergy clinic. We have the facility to do testing to see if your child would be able to eat one, or a number of other nuts apart from peanuts.
- It is rare for children to outgrow peanut allergies, but not impossible. A small number of children have been known to grow out of their peanut allergies.
If you have an allergy to peanuts, the best way of preventing an allergic reaction is by strict avoidance of all peanuts, and peanut-containing foods. This can become tricky with regards to vague food labelling, eating out and foreign travel.
Reading food labels:
As with any food allergy, we urge everyone with a peanut allergy to carefully check labelling on food and drinks, to ensure peanuts are not mistakenly consumed. Peanuts can be listed in various ways on packaging, including, but not limited to:
- peanut butter
- peanut flour
- peanut oil
- ground nuts
- earth nuts
- monkey nuts
- arachis oil
- groundnut oil
"May Contain Traces of nuts/peanuts" - This label can make life very difficult for those with a nut allergy. We strongly recommend exercising caution when it comes to such labels. The following foods are what we class as more high-risk; meaning the likelihood of cross-contamination with peanuts is far greater than other foods:
- spreads, such as peanut butter, or other nut butters
- bags of mixed nuts - the likelihood of cross contamination is extremely high
- Confectionery such as chocolates, cakes, biscuits
- ice creams - watch out for nut toppings
- vegetarian meals such as nut roasts and veggie burgers
- sauces such as satay sauce, some salad dressings (may contain unrefined peanut oil)
- breakfast cereals such as crunchy nut, muesli, granola
Some companies use the label 'may contain nuts' on all of their food packaging, regardless of whether there is any risk or not. In such instances we just advise using your judgement.
Eating out at takeaways or restaurants can also cause some problems when it comes to nut allergies. You may feel unsure as to what meals contain peanuts, and whether there is a likelihood of contamination. When eating out, it is important that you always speak to the chef about your allergy, to ensure precautions are being taken. If the chef cannot guarantee that the food will not be contaminated with peanut, it is advised that you do not eat there. Some types of cuisine carry a higher risk of peanut contamination due to the nature of their dishes, these include (but are not limited to):
Always ensure you carry your child's allergy rescue medication with you whenever you eat out.
All travel to foreign countries is done so at your risk. Whilst we can provide some advice, and direct you to useful websites to assist you in your travel, we cannot help you make the decision to travel. Please refer to our list of useful websites to find some further advice on travelling.
Some things to bear in mind before making the decision to travel:
- If your child carries an adrenaline auto-injector device (EpiPen/Emerade/Jext), it is likely you will require a travel letter provided by your allergy nurse or consultant to allow you to carry your medications in your hand luggage. It is extremely important that all rescue medication is kept with you on the plane, and not stored with your checked-in luggage.