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Young woman experiencing peanut allergy reaction and wondering how long it will last

How long does a peanut allergy reaction last?

Written on November 23, 2022 by Amy Harris, MPH, RN. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


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Peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of severe allergy attacks [1]. The allergic reaction can be triggered by as little as 1/1,000th of a peanut [2]. Peanut allergies are the leading cause of life-threatening anaphylaxis reactions, causing significant anxiety for children and their parents, not to mention adding stress to our healthcare. Most people receive their peanut allergy diagnosis at a young age—the median age of diagnosis is 18 months [3]. So, regardless of whether you are a parent of a child with a peanut allergy or an adult tired of carrying an EpiPen, you are probably wondering how long does a peanut allergy last? Read on to learn more about new research and findings showing that not everyone has a lifetime of peanut allergy worries in their future.

What happens when you have a peanut allergy?

A peanut allergy is a type of food allergy. A food allergy is an abnormal response in your body triggered by food caused by your immune system. If you have a peanut allergy, your immune system thinks that proteins in peanuts are harmful invaders. So it responds by fighting off the “invaders,” triggering cells to release an immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody to neutralize the peanut proteins.

Medical professionals call peanut allergy a severe allergy because, for some people who are allergic, even tiny amounts of peanuts can cause a severe reaction that can even be life-threatening (anaphylaxis). The chances of a severe allergic reaction in adults are higher than in children.

This kind of food allergy is different than food intolerance. Food intolerance is not related to the immune system like a food allergy is. Instead, food intolerance is rooted in the gastrointestinal system (GI) and the enzymes your body uses to digest (or not digest) food.

If you have a peanut allergy and are exposed to peanuts, you can have either a mild or severe reaction, usually within minutes. Symptoms of a mild peanut allergy are:

  • Skin reactions, such as hives, redness, or swelling
  • Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
  • Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting
  • Tightening of the throat
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Runny nose

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications called antihistamines (like Benadryl) may help decrease symptoms of a mild allergic reaction to peanuts [1]. However, OTC antihistamines will not relieve respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms or stop an anaphylactic reaction. Once diagnosed with a peanut allergy, your healthcare provider should help you develop a food allergy emergency plan to treat either mild or severe reactions. Watching for the early signs and symptoms will help you react quickly if you or your child have an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts.

What are the symptoms of peanut-induced anaphylaxis?

Peanut allergy is the most common cause of food-induced anaphylaxis, a medical emergency that requires treatment with an epinephrine (adrenaline) autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others), and a trip to the emergency room [1]. You or your child may be having an anaphylactic reaction if you have the following:

  • Narrowing of your airways (making it hard to breathe, feeling like a squeezing in your chest)
  • Swelling of the throat that makes it difficult to breathe
  • A severe drop in blood pressure (shock)
  • Rapid pulse (heart racing)
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness

To immediately treat anaphylaxis, healthcare providers recommend that people with a nut or peanut allergy keep a shot of epinephrine (in an easy-to-carry EpiPen or Auvi-Q injector) with them. This medication reverses your immune system's overreaction to the proteins in peanuts.

How long does a peanut allergy last?

Most people (80%) with a childhood peanut allergy do not outgrow their allergy [4]. Only two out of 10 children with peanut allergies are lucky enough to outgrow them. Peanut allergies differ from other common childhood food allergies, such as egg or milk allergies, which many children outgrow. Food allergies, in general, become less common as people grow older because, with age, your digestive system matures, and your body reacts less to food triggers allergies [1].

While there is not yet a cure for peanut allergies, several experimental treatments are on the horizon that may someday make it possible for you not to have to carry your Epi-Pen around with you everywhere. Researchers have begun exploring immunotherapy (think allergy shots) as a way to treat peanut allergies and reduce the number of hospitalizations for anaphylaxis [5].

How do you know if you have outgrown your peanut allergy?

While we wait for new medications for peanut allergies, you may be left wondering if there is any way to know when and if you have outgrown your peanut allergy. The only way to know for sure whether you have outgrown your peanut allergy is to perform an oral food challenge. In an oral food challenge (always done at a pediatrician’s, allergist, or even at the hospital), you eat small, measured amounts of peanuts. Medical staff watches you closely for any signs of an allergic reaction. If they see no reaction after a certain amount of time, you will be allowed to eat some more peanuts. Under close watch, they will allow you to continue eating peanuts until you either have an allergic reaction or consume a full serving without an allergic reaction.

Children who outgrow peanut allergy have a slight chance of recurrence, but researchers found that the risk of recurrence is much lower in children who frequently eat peanuts or peanut products [6]. The exact mechanism by which peanut allergy may recur is still unknown. Still, in one study, children who ate concentrated forms of peanut (like peanut butter) frequently (at least once a month) had a considerably lower chance of having a recurrence of their allergy [6].

Because of the potential for a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction, you should never test whether you have outgrown your peanut allergy on your own, without medical advice or supervision.

How common are peanut allergies?

Very common, especially among children. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) estimates that peanut allergy is the most common food allergy in children under age 18 and the third-most common food allergy in adults [8]. Rates of peanut allergies are increasing- peanut allergies in children have increased by 21% in the United States since 2010 [9]. There is significant debate about why rates of all food allergies, not just peanut allergies, are increasing [9].

Given that peanut allergies are so common, can cause significant harm, and are increasing, you may wonder how you can test for a peanut allergy.

Are there at-home tests for peanut allergies?

Yes, the Everlywell Food Allergy Test measures IgE antibodies that your body may release if you have a peanut allergy. This at-home lab test measures your body’s immunoglobulin E (IgE) reactivity to nine common food allergens:

  • Peanut
  • Almond
  • Cow’s milk
  • Egg white
  • Egg yolk
  • Shrimp
  • Soy
  • Tuna
  • Wheat

Remember that the Everlywell Food Allergy Test is not meant to take the place of formal evaluation and diagnosis by a medical doctor (MD) for peanut allergy. Given the severity of allergic reactions to peanuts, you want to make sure you have as much information as possible about how to live healthfully with your peanut allergy. In addition, this test is not intended to be taken by anyone who has previously had a severe reaction to peanuts. If you have any serious symptoms, please seek medical attention right away.

That said, learning more about your risk food allergies, including peanut allergies, may help to keep you and your family safer from potentially life-threatening allergic reactions to peanuts. You can take comfort in knowing that Everlywell’s at-home nutritional health tests are all CLIA-certified and HIPPA-compliant, meaning Everlywell keeps your health data safe and secure.

Why are peanut allergies so common?

Peanut allergy symptoms explained

How to test for peanut allergy at home: a quick guide

Sudden egg allergy in adults: causes and more


References

  1. Peanut allergy. Mayo ClinicPublished March 5, 2022. Accessed November 21, 2022. URL
  2. Perry TT, Conover-Walker MK, Pomés A, Chapman MD, Wood RA. Distribution of peanut allergen in the environment. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004;113(5):973-976. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2004.02.035. URL
  3. Warren C, Lei D, Sicherer S, Schleimer R, et al. Prevalence and characteristics of peanut allergies in U.S. adults. Food Allergy and Gastrointestinal Disease.2021;147(6):2263-2270. URL
  4. Peters RL, Allen KJ, Dharmage SC, et al. Natural history of peanut allergy and predictors of resolution in the first 4 years of life: A population-based assessment. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015;135(5):1257-66.e662. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2015.01.002. URL
  5. Oral immunotherapy for peanut allergy in young children. NIH Research Matters. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Published February 8, 2022. Accessed November 21, 2022. URL
  6. Fleischer DM, Conover-Walker MK, Christie L, Burks AW, Wood RA. Peanut allergy: recurrence and its management. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004;114(5):1195-1201. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2004.08.035. URL
  7. McWilliam V, Peters R, Tang MLK, et al. Patterns of tree nut sensitization and allergy in the first 6 years of life in a population-based cohort. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2019;143(2):644-650.e5. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2018.07.038. URL
  8. Peanut Allergy. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Accessed November 21, 2022. URL
  9. Abrams EM, Chan ES, Sicherer S. Peanut allergies: New advances and ongoing controversies. Pediatrics. 2020;145(5): https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-2102. URL
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