To date, peanut allergy continues to be the most common food allergy among American children. It’s also the most lethal, and while all allergens are potentially fatal, peanut is the number one trigger of food-related anaphylaxis. Last year, Dr. Ruchi Gupta and her team at Northwestern University released a study in Pediatrics stating that approximately 1.6 million American children have a peanut allergy. Shortly after, Dr. Gupta’s team released another study in JAMA looking at food allergy prevalence among American adults. They found that peanut allergy affects 4.5 million adults.
How are peanuts and tree nuts different?
Even though “nut” is part of its name, the peanut is actually a legume and very different from a tree nut. Similar to soybeans and lentils, peanuts are actually edible seeds that grow in pods! From a nutritional standpoint, peanuts and tree nuts are fairly similar—they’re rich in fiber and healthy unsaturated fats, and offer several of the same vitamins and minerals.
Why the spike?
As recent as 2018, it was believed that only 15 million Americans had a food allergy. Dr. Gupta’s studies more than doubled that figure to 32 million Americans!
Why the spike? That’s the million dollar question. Unfortunately, there are no clear answers. There are, however, a few leading theories, which we discussed in a previous post.
The LEAP study.
Rewind a few years to another watershed report: the LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut) study. Its findings were discussed for the first time at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s 2015 annual meeting. In a nutshell (pun intended 🙃), this study showed that infants at high-risk of developing a peanut allergy may have a lower risk of developing the allergy if they consume peanut-containing snacks early in life and consistently.
Can you outgrow a peanut allergy?
Studies have shown that children who are allergic to milk, eggs, or soy are more likely to outgrow their allergy than children who are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, or shellfish.
A peanut allergy tends to be lifelong. One study found that around 20% of peanut-allergic children will outgrow their allergy. They reported that children are most likely to outgrow their peanut allergy by age six. After age 10, the chance of outgrowing the allergy is much lower.
Teaching your kids about their peanut allergy.
I’ve been a nut allergy mama for seven years. The best piece of advice (and encouragement!) I received after my daughter was diagnosed was to be thankful that she has a peanut allergy in today’s world and not a couple decades ago when there were no federal regulations on food labels, no precedent for how to manage them in schools, and no legislation guiding the development of 504 plans or IEP’s for food-allergic families.
Additionally, because of the surge in peanut allergy, many nut-free alternatives to peanut butter have hit the market—some of which taste shockingly similar and are delicious! Trust me, we’ve tried most all of them. 😉 WowButter, SunButter, The Sneaky Chef No-Nut Butter, 88 Acres seed butters, and Brass Roots seed butters are all great peanut butter alternatives.
I’ll leave you with one pro-tip I learned early on: show your food-allergic child what nut allergens look like both IN the shell and OUTSIDE the shell. I spent lots of time when our daughter was little showing her exactly what the nuts looked like on packages at the store, but realized that she couldn’t identify many of them (including peanuts!) when they were in the shell—which is just as important.
To all of our friends and followers managing peanut allergies, know that you’re amazing! We look forward to bringing you a product soon that can hopefully make managing these allergies easier. Because after all, food should be a source of fuel, not fear.
Do you have best practices to share for how you manage peanut allergies? Please share in the comments below!
– Meg & the Allergy Amulet Team