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Peanut Allergy - Overview

How is it treated?

If you accidentally eat a peanut, follow your doctor's instructions. For a mild reaction, you may only need to take an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine hydrochloride (Benadryl), to reduce your symptoms of a runny nose or itchy skin.

If your allergic reaction is more severe, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions for this type of reaction. If you have had a severe reaction previously, your doctor has probably prescribed a medicine called epinephrine. Give yourself the epinephrine shot, take an antihistamine, and call 911 for further instructions.

For more information on how to give an epinephrine shot, see:

actionset.gif Allergies: Giving Yourself an Epinephrine Shot.
actionset.gif Allergies in Children: Giving an Epinephrine Shot to a Child.

Even if you feel better after giving yourself the shot, symptoms of anaphylaxis can recur or suddenly appear hours later. You need to be observed in a hospital for several hours after your symptoms go away.

If you do not have epinephrine and are having a severe allergic reaction, call911immediately.

How can I avoid an allergic reaction?

To prevent an allergic reaction to peanuts:

  • Understand your allergy and know that you need to protect yourself. Read food labels or ask kitchen staff at restaurants if there are peanuts or peanut oils hidden in any of the foods you order. For example, some cooks thicken chili with peanut butter.
  • Understand that no amount of peanut is safe. Some people are so severely allergic to peanuts that being near them or breathing air that contains peanut residue can cause an allergic reaction.
  • Let others know that you or your child has a peanut allergy. Make sure that all caregivers (such as school administrators, teachers, babysitters, and coaches), friends, and coworkers:
    • Know what the symptoms of an allergic reaction look like.
    • Know where the epinephrine shot is kept and how to give the shot.
    • Have a plan to transport you or your child to the hospital.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet camera.gif or medallion that lists your peanut allergy. This will alert emergency response workers if you have a severe allergic reaction. Medical alert jewelry can be ordered through most pharmacies or on the Internet.
  • Keep your epinephrine shot with you at all times. Make sure older children know how to give you or themselves the shot. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure how to give yourself the shot.
  • Keep an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine hydrochloride (Benadryl) with you at all times. These medicines can be used in addition to epinephrine and are often helpful in both mild and severe allergic reactions.

If you think you are having an allergic reaction:

  • Get help. Do not minimize the seriousness of the problem.
  • After you give yourself an epinephrine shot, call your doctor immediately or seek other emergency services. You will need to be observed for several hours to make sure the reaction does not recur.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 25, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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