Peanut allergy is not the most common food allergy, but it is the most common food associated with severe allergic reactions.
Diagnosing food allergy begins with identifying a history of sensitivity to certain foods. Many people who have a peanut allergy have chronic symptoms such as:
- Stomach upset
- Skin itching
Some people with severe peanut allergy who have an accidental exposure to peanuts in food have immediate reactions such as:
- Mouth or throat itching
- Severe systemic reaction called anaphylaxis
Testing for peanut allergy
Testing for peanut allergy can be done through a food challenge with peanuts, a skin test with peanut extract or a blood test. We prefer to test food allergy with a blood test because some people are sensitive to even the smallest amount of peanut used in skin testing.
The amount of peanut that can trigger an allergic reaction may be a few grams (several peanuts) or a few milligrams (hidden or trace amounts in a food).
Treatment for peanut allergy with sublingual immunotherapy begins at a much lower level than the amount that triggers reactions at the microgram level. This small amount placed under the tongue is enough for the immune system to learn to tolerate peanuts, yet is below the level that triggers a reaction.
If you are allergic to peanuts, it is usually best to limit the amount of peanut in your diet. You can do this by reducing the amount and frequency of peanut products in your diet through our prescribed or recommended rotation diet. If you have a severe peanut allergy, it may be necessary to avoid peanuts completely.
The goal of treatment is to balance safety and efficacy. Our approach through the La Crosse Method Protocol for peanut allergy is very safe. We work with you to learn your treatment goal. We first want to ensure that we help you decrease the risk of severe reactions with accidental exposure to peanut. As more study results are available, we hope to provide more long-term help for these severe allergies.
Peanut allergy research
In 2004, Dr. Mary Morris from Allergy Associates of La Crosse collaborated with Dr. Wesley Burks from Duke University on a study design for a sublingual immunotherapy trial for peanut allergy. The NIH CAM section provided funding for trial #NCT00429429. Dr. Burks has also been the principal investigator for other oral and sublingual immunotherapy trials using peanut flour and peanut liquid. (NCT00598039, NCT00597659, NCT00580606, NCT00597727). Dr. Morris is currently working on additional research on peanut allergy that will provide additional information to help us refine treatment.