About four percent of people in the world have a peanut allergy. The allergic reaction to peanuts is caused by the immune system mistaking certain molecules found in this legume for an invading organism, and mounting a response. Most treatments for this reaction involve either dampening the immune response, or avoiding peanut-containing products.
Optimal treatments for an allergic reaction to peanuts often depend on the severity of the reaction. Mild allergies may only require taking an antihistamine afterward, which is a drug that decreases a component of the immune response. Antihistamines are widely available, and include diphenhydramine. These drugs are sufficient to diminish symptoms like itching, rashes, running nose, and sneezing.
In the event of a more severe allergic reaction to peanuts, a stronger medication may be needed. The drug of choice to prevent extreme reactions like trouble breathing or anaphylactic shock is epinephrine. Epinephrine is administered in an injection form, and may be taken with an antihistamine. Monitoring by a medical professional may be required, since severe allergic symptoms can reappear hours later, after the effects of the medication have worn off.
To ensure that a sensitive individual can always receive treatment for an allergic reaction to peanuts, a few precautions should be followed. The person should wear a medical alert necklace or bracelet that identifies the allergy clearly. They should also have an epinephrine injection pen, and a phone to contact medical personnel. Allergies may suddenly increase in severity, so even individuals that have seemingly mild reactions to peanuts should follow these precautions.
The best way to deal with an allergic reaction to peanuts is to avoid them altogether. This may require effort to determine which foods and products are made with peanuts so that all contact can be avoided. Even foods prepared in the same areas or factories as peanuts may not be consumed by an individual with an allergy.
Food allergies can result in major sensitivities that require caution. For some people that are allergic to peanuts, even breathing dust that contains molecules from peanuts can trigger an allergic reaction. In cases of severe reactions, eating a peanut can be fatal, so close attention must be paid to the contents of one's food.
Studies are being performed that use desensitization to treat peanut allergies. Desensitization involves slowly increasing an individual's exposure to peanuts over time. Such treatments are still in the experimental phase, however, and should not be attempted without a doctor's supervision.