Peanut Allergies - The Rules
What Causes Peanut Allergy?
Allergies, regardless what, are the abnormal immune system response to a protein that is present in a specific organism. In the case of peanut and tree nut allergies, the body concludes that the proteins in the nuts poses an existential threat to it and takes action by generating immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody that will take up the fight the next time peanut proteins dare invade. When someone with a peanut allergy eats peanuts, histamines are formed in the body to fight the peanuts and an allergic reaction is caused.
Sometimes the allergic reaction is quite mild, often referred to as intolerance. In such cases the reaction can be accompanied by intestinal distress and heart burn. When the allergy is serious, hives, skin rashes, difficulty breathing, accelerated heart rate, and in extreme cases, anaphylaxis can occur. Anaphylaxis is a state of unconsciousness that can rapidly end up in a coma. In a case of anaphylaxis, it is imperative the individual is immediately treated with epinephrine in order to suppress the immune system response otherwise the person can die. People who live with severe allergies that can become anaphylactic usually carry an allergy kit with them.
It New Phenomena
The incidence of peanut allergies has grown in First World countries and doctors believe one of the causes is the fact that our environments are too clean. Our immune systems have been altered by the eradication of diseases, leaving us vulnerable for other health issues. Additionally, the fact that peanuts are in so many food products may also be contributing to the problem. Generally speaking, peanut allergies are more likely to develop in children than in adults. Sometimes they outgrow it, sometimes they don't. One risk factor for children is having a parent who is allergic to peanuts. For some reason, if a parent is allergic to peanuts, often the child will be as well.
Since North America, the US in particular, has a growing incidence of peanut allergies in kids, many schools and daycares have become peanut-free and tree-nut free. Four out of 100 children have a food allergy according to the National Center for Health Statistics, with children under the age of five having higher rates of reported allergies. As a result of the profound effect of allergies on the child and the emotional effects of seeing a child endure a severe reaction, many schools and daycares have taken it seriously and made some changes. Such changes require awareness, education, and communication between caregivers and parents. For many parents of children who do not react to foods, the changes may be inconvenient. However, when one considers the alternative, it becomes a moot point.
Peanuts and Airlines
One of the arenas that became quite public in the peanut allergy debate is the airline industry. Over the past couple of years, the debate about having peanuts on planes rose to new heights when the Department of Transport asked the public about a possible peanut ban on planes along with other measures they were considering to address the issue of severe allergies among fliers. People from all over, especially allergy sufferers and parents of children with peanut allergies were actively letting their opinions be heard.
However, when the issue came to the table in April of 2011, the department had dropped the peanut ban because of a 12-year-old law that blocks the agency from weighing in and tampering with the peanut policy without a peer-reviewed scientific study having been completed. As of that point, no such study had been done - so the ban was not put into effect.
Even though the government cannot impose regulations on restricting peanuts on airlines, some carriers have, of their own volition, made changes to accommodate passengers with allergies. Some have changed their snacks entirely and others have created peanut-free buffer zones. However, some of the airlines, like Delta and American say on their websites that they cannot guarantee a peanut-free flight.
If you have a peanut allergy, be sure to check with the airline to ensure you know what the parameters are for your health.
Allergies can be dealt with using an OTC antihistamine. Learn more about that topic here.