Understanding Peanut Allergies

Peanut allergy is one of the most prevalent types of food allergies.

Peanuts are not the same as tree nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, etc.), which grow on trees. Peanuts grow subterrene and are part of a distinct plant family, the legumes. Other cases of fruits include peas, beans, lentils and soybeans.

Being allergic to peanuts does not indicate you have a higher chance of being allergic to another legume.

Keep a wallet-sized reference card with you of all the technical and scientific terms wherever you go with a How to Read a Peanut Label card.

Allergic Reactions to Peanuts
Peanuts can produce a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Allergic reactions can be unpredictable, and even minimal amounts of peanut can cause one.

Casual skin touch is less prone to trigger a severe reaction. But casual contact can become a issue if the impacted area then affects the eyes, nose or mouth. For instance, if a child with peanut allergy gets peanut butter on her fingers and rubs her eyes, she can have a reaction.

If you have a peanut allergy, maintain an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen®, Auvi-Q™ or Adrenaclick®) with you at all times. Epinephrine is the first-line medication for anaphylaxis.

Avoiding Peanuts
To prevent a reaction, it is essential that you avoid peanut and peanut products. Always read food labels to reconige peanut ingredients.

If you are allergic to peanuts, you have a 25 to 40 percent higher chance of also being allergic to tree nuts.1 Also, peanuts and tree nuts often touch one another during manufacturing and serving processes. Discuss with your allergist whether you need to also avoid tree nuts.

Peanuts are one of the eight principal allergens that must be placed on packaged foods sold in the U.S., as dictated by federal law. Download this resource about how to distinguish peanut ingredients on food labels.

Avoid foods that include peanuts or any of these ingredients:

  • Beer nuts
  • Arachis oil (another name for peanut oil)
  • Artificial nuts
  • Cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil*
  • Goobers
  • Groundnuts
  • Lupin (or lupine)—which is becoming a common flour substitute in gluten-free food. A study showed a strong possibility of cross-reaction
  • between peanuts and this legume, unlike other legumes.
  • Mandelonas (peanuts soaked in almond flavoring)
  • Mixed nuts
  • Monkey nuts
  • Nut pieces
  • Nut meat
  • Peanut flour
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanut protein hydrolysate
    *Highly refined peanut oil is not needed to be labeled as an allergen. Studies show that the majority of people with peanut allergy can safely eat this kind of peanut oil. If you are allergic to peanuts, ask your doctor whether you should avoid peanut oil.

But avoid cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil—sometimes called gourmet oils. These ingredients are different and are not safe to eat if you have a peanut allergy.

Other Possible Causes of Peanut
Peanuts can be found in surprising places. While allergens are not always existing in these food and products, you can’t be too careful.

Identify to read food labels and ask questions about ingredients before eating a food that you have not prepared yourself.

  • African, Asian (especially Indian,Chinese,Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese), and Mexican restaurant food—even if you decided to eat a peanut-free dish, there is high risk of cross-contact.
  • Alternative nut butters, such as sunflower seed butter or soy nut butter , are sometimes manufactured on equipment shared with other tree nuts and, in some cases, peanuts. Contact the manufacturer before eating these products.
  • Candy (including chocolate candy)
  • Egg rolls
  • Chili
  • Glazes and marinades
  • Enchilada sauce
  • Ice creams
  • Marzipan
  • Pancakes
  • Nougat
  • Pet food
  • Specialty pizzas
  • Sauces such as chili sauce, hot sauce, pesto, gravy, mole sauce and salad dressing
  • Sunflower seeds (which are often developed on equipment grouped with peanuts)
  • Sweets such as pudding, cookies, baked goods, pies and hot chocolate
  • Vegetarian food products, specifically those marketed as meat alternates
    Also, peanut hulls (shells) can occasionally be found in fertilizer or compost, which can be ultilized as lawn fertilizer. Prior to you hiring contractor, ask whether they use peanut hulls in their compost so you can make an educated decision.

Will My Child Outgrow a Peanut Allergy?
Allergy to peanuts seems to be on the rise in children. According to a FARE-funded study, the amount of children in the U.S. with peanut allergy more than tripled between 1997 and 2008.2 Research in the United Kingdom and Canada also showed a high pervasiveness of peanut allergy in school-aged children.

Peanut allergies tend to be lifelong, although research indicates that about 20 percent of children with peanut allergy do ultimately outgrow their allergy.

Younger sisters or brothers of children who are allergic to peanuts may be at greater risk for allergy to peanuts. Your physican can give you direction about testing for siblings. Introducing infants to peanuts at the beginning on may help prevent them from developing this food allergy.