Peanuts are the bane of many peoples’ existence, and you probably know at least one person who has a peanut allergy. However, contrary to popular belief, it is not exclusively a childhood ailment, and you are not out of the water simply because you escaped the peanut allergy crisis in kindergarten.
You can suddenly become allergic to peanuts. It is possible to develop an allergy at any time, and peanuts are one of the most common allergens. If you exhibit signs of a peanut allergy, it is best to look at your medical history and seek an appointment with a doctor or allergist.
Below are some of the common risk factors for adult-onset peanut allergies, as well as a few recommendations for the next steps. You are not alone in your allergy concerns, and the professionals are willing and able to help you whenever you are ready!
Am I at Risk for an Adult-Onset Peanut Allergy?
While it is perfectly plausible that your body just chose to hate the peanut randomly, certain parts of your medical history can help explain a sudden peanut allergy in adulthood.
You may be at risk for adult-onset peanut allergy if you have ever had a pollen allergy, if you have oral allergy syndrome, or if you are related to someone who has a peanut allergy.
The Pollen Problem
According to Dr. Phil Lieberman, the chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Food Allergy Committee, if you were diagnosed with a pollen allergy as a child, this allergy could morph into a peanut allergy over time.
The connection between flowers, pollen, seeds, and peanuts is remarkably close, so it is essential to consider pollen allergies, hay fever, and any other environmental allergies when talking with your doctor.
The Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) Angle
If you have any history of oral allergy syndrome, a swelling of the mouth or lips when eating certain raw fruits or vegetables, this might put you at greater risk for a peanut allergy later on in life.
Peanut allergies are often not the only allergy a patient exhibits. The most common comorbidities with peanut allergies are other food allergies and asthma or similar breathing issues.
The Family Factor
Peanut allergies can also run in families. If you have a sibling or parent with a peanut allergy, you could end up with one even if it did not appear in your childhood. If you are unsure about your immediate family’s allergy status, you should probably ask them before seeing a doctor. If you don’t have access to your birth parents’ medical records, mention this at the doctor’s.
The science behind why allergies develop is still new territory for doctors and scientists, but the symptoms are relatively easy to read. Because peanut allergies can lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that sends your body into shock and makes it impossible to breathe, it is crucial to go to a doctor as soon as possible if you begin to suspect an allergy.
Peanut Allergy Symptoms
If you think you might have a peanut allergy, keep a close lookout after exposure to a peanut-containing product for at least two hours. The most common symptoms include:
- Tight throat or difficulty breathing
- Stomach problems or cramps
- Weak pulse
- Bluish skin
- Swelling of the tongue or lips
- Anaphylaxis (in critical cases)
If you notice one or more of these symptoms is a consistent visitor after consuming a peanut product, it is wise to go to the doctor.
Listening to your symptoms is especially important because new allergies worsen each time you come in contact with the allergen. So, even if your first reaction was not too severe, there is no telling what the result of the third or fourth exposure might be. The longer you put off professional diagnoses, the closer you could be coming to a life-threatening reaction.
Why You Probably Should Not Take an At-Home Allergy Test
Simply put, at-home allergy tests, or even a walk-in allergy screening at a local pharmacy, while convenient, are not always a reliable way to determine whether you have an allergy. Many at-home kits are not dependable or cheap, and you could end up with the dreaded “false positive,” leaving you to go to extremes to eradicate peanuts from your diet when it is not truly necessary.
A doctor’s exam or a meeting with an allergist, where both professionals have the chance to gauge your medical history, risk factors, and symptoms, is by far the best way to go when it comes to allergy testing. This way, you can learn the actual severity of your allergy and be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector if required.
What To Do Until Your Appointment
Until your doctor or local allergist is available, you ought to try to stay away from the offending food and keep a “symptom diary.” Try to remember all you can about your first negative encounter with a peanut product, such as:
- How much peanut was present
- How soon after the peanut exposure you begin to feel ill
- Your specific symptoms
Write all of this information down and bring it with you to your appointment. This symptom diary will be a great help to your doctor when you go in!
The bottom line is that peanut allergies can appear at any time, but your medical history will be the most significant help to you while you figure out what is happening.
If you suspect you might be developing an allergy or have had any strange, food-related incidents recently, seek professional medical help as soon as you are able. Being on top of the issue as soon as it appears will save you and your family many headaches later if you indeed are allergic.
Thankfully, if you end up with a peanut allergy, there are plenty of resources that can help you navigate a peanut-free lifestyle. Most food packaging in the U.S. will have easy-to-find allergy information, and most products with peanuts have delicious, allergy-safe alternatives!
So, don’t despair. Your life can look essentially the same, and your stomach and organs will thank you for removing the toxic peanut from your diet!