Peanut allergies

Causes and how to handle them
It may sound funny. It did to me when I first heard of it. The truth is some people are allergic to peanuts. Their bodies react, sometimes violently, to peanuts or anything that has peanuts as an ingredient; for instance peanut butter or chocolate.

It is difficult to avoid peanuts because unlike, say, eggs, which is a main meal or can be expected in certain foods, peanuts are often just a mere ingredient in a meal. Sometimes it is an ingredient in another ingredient, making it all the more difficult to detect. Yet even that can make all the difference in someone whose body cannot\tolerate peanuts.

The cause of the peanut allergy is unknown except that the body reacts to these proteins by producing immunoglobulin E antibodies to fight off the offending proteins. The allergy manifests itself in the following ways;

  • Wheezing
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling
  • Itchiness
  • Fainting
  • Anaphylaxis

Except for the anaphylaxis, the rest of the symptoms tend to be mild and do not appear for long (no longer than a day). As for anaphylaxis (a reaction where one feels like the throat is closing up and may lead to loss of breath and eventually the person may faint) it would need urgent medical attention.

According to Dr. Newton Githaiga, a paediatrician in private practice, it is hard to pinpoint the culprit when your child begins to react. ‘Eggs or fabrics tend to be usual suspects and should be the first on your watch list. However, you need to be a little more careful to note exactly what the child is eating so that you may know what is causing the reaction.

Sometimes children outgrow the reactions and can go on to eat peanut-based foods. ‘Parents should be vigilant at home when feeding and clothing their children. Do not ever let a rash go unattended. In other words, go to your doctor,’ advises Dr. Githaiga.

‘Dealing with peanut allergy is simple. Stop taking peanuts. If they threaten the life of your child or make the child uncomfortable, then you should avoid the peanuts. However, if they have already taken something and are suffering a reaction, the way to treat is; other than avoiding foods laced with peanuts the other option is to carry an anti dote, known as epinephrine, which is an injectible easy-to-carry and use medicine. Over the counter antihistamines maybe used for the mild reactions,’ he says. One should always be vigilant though because with children putting everything in their mouths, it can be very dangerous. Remind them not to put things into their mouths and alert their teachers, house-helps and everyone else that the child spends time with on the same.

Teach the child to let people know what she is not allowed to eat and why.

As a precaution, read about the labels on the packages of foodstuffs carefully.

Also check the ingredients of your cooking oil and other products as peanuts find their way into quite a number of foodstuffs and cooking oils that people use at home today.

END: BL 40/36

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