Halloween can be a fun time of year for kids of all ages, yes, even for adults. There are parties at school, in your neighborhood, and even at work. Because I have quite a sweet tooth, I love Halloween for all the candy, especially the chocolate.
However, this can be a difficult time of year for people with peanut allergies. Peanuts are found in many sweet treats, from chocolate to baked goods.
Here’s some information about peanut allergies and why they can be severe or even life-threatening.
Q: What is a peanut allergy?
A: If you have a peanut allergy, your body identifies peanuts as harmful. Your immune system overreacts and goes into defense mode.
People with peanut allergies experience moderate to severe reactions after coming into contact with products containing peanuts. People can be affected by eating something with peanuts, inhaling dust or aerosols, or skin contact. Children are more likely than adults to suffer from peanut allergies.
Because it’s so easy to come in contact with peanut or peanut products, many schools are peanut-free zones. If they weren’t, children could come in contact with peanuts in endless ways. For example, a child could eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch. After lunch, she could borrow a pencil from a child with a peanut allergy. Any peanut butter or peanut oil left on the pencil could cause an allergic reaction for the child who owns the pencil.
Q: What are the symptoms of a peanut allergy?
A: The symptoms vary for each person. People allergic to peanuts usually experience symptoms shortly after contact, and their symptoms can range from minor to severe (life-threatening). Some minor/moderate symptoms may include:
• Itchy or sensitive skin;
• Itchy or watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, or a runny nose;
• Stomach problems such as cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea;
Some severe symptoms may include:
• Increased heartbeat;
• Weak pulse;
• Constriction/swelling of throat or airways causing breathing difficulty;
• Confusion; and
• Dizziness or loss of consciousness.
Q: Are there treatments for people who suffer from peanut allergies?
A: While there are treatments for people who suffer from peanut allergies, there’s no cure. People who experience a minor allergic reaction can use antihistamines to control their symptoms. Antihistamines can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy. If over-the-counter antihistamines aren’t strong enough, talk to your doctor about a prescription-strength antihistamine.
An epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) should be used for severe reactions.
Q: How can I help family and friends who suffer from peanut allergies?
A: Talk to them about the allergy and know the warning signs of an allergic reaction. If they have a severe allergic reaction while they’re with you, you know where to find the EpiPen and can call 911.
When I was a teenager, my brother came home to find my dad very confused; he was having trouble finding a pair of shoes. He had been stung by a bee, had a severe allergic reaction, and needed an ambulance ride to our local emergency room. At that time, we didn’t know he had a bee allergy. Luckily my brother called my aunt, an RN, and she recognized my dad’s symptoms. Ever since then, we always make sure my dad has his EpiPen. While this isn’t a peanut allergy, a similar scenario could occur with one.
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