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Peanut Allergies Require Planning, Communication

The little nut is a big culprit when kids have bad reactions

If your child is allergic to peanuts, this common food can fill you with dread. Peanuts are the top cause of severe allergic reactions to food, says the Food Allergy Initiative. Up to 3 million Americans suffer from peanut or tree-nut allergies.

Reactions range from hives and vomiting to life-threatening throat swelling that blocks breathing. The first reaction may be mild, but reactions tend to worsen over time. After a first episode, allergy tests can find the problem.

Help kids enjoy a normal life

As your child gets older, balance safety with freedom. In most cases, kids can lead a normal life and should be encouraged to do so. However, it's also important to talk with health care providers and schools about peanut allergy and your child.

Set up emergency plans first. Experts recommend that you teach children and their health care providers:

  • What symptoms to expect.

  • Who to call in an emergency.

  • To carry emergency kits at all times. Include diphenhydramine (to help hives and treat other mild symptoms) and an epinephrine injection kit (to open closed airways and treat other life-threatening symptoms).

Risks to avoid

  • Packaged foods without a full ingredient list.

  • Packaged food with wording such as "processed in a plant that processes peanuts."

  • Asian cuisine (Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese). Even if your order is peanut-free, it may have been cooked with utensils that have touched peanut products.

  • Ice cream shops. Scoops may go from nut-filled to nut-free ice creams without thorough washing.

  • Small bakeries. Bakery work areas are hard to clean.