Peanut allergy is the most common food allergy in the United States, affecting 1.5 million people, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. And while some people only experience mild symptoms, others suffer much more serious consequences. In fact, this condition leads to 15,000 emergency room visits each year and causes approximately 100 deaths annually, reports the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. Further, a mild nut reaction can progress to a much more serious one from repeated exposure. 

While the situation may sound frightening, the good news is that there are some important things you can do to minimize your chances of becoming a statistic.

Symptoms to Watch For

When a peanut allergy strikes, basically your body treats the peanut protein as an invader and releases chemicals into your bloodstream that cause a host of symptoms, including:

  • Stomach ache, nausea or vomiting
  • Itchy eyes or skin
  • A rash or hives
  • Runny nose and cough or wheezing
  • Tingling tongue or lips
  • Tightening feeling in your throat

Mild symptoms can often be treated with an antihistamine, but for more serious cases, which may be accompanied by a swollen throat, trouble breathing and loss of consciousness, you will need to use an epinephrine injector immediately and seek emergency medical protection.

Foods That Might Make You Sick

If you have a peanut allergy, the best way to protect yourself is to become educated. You will need to know exactly what types of foods could make you sick. Some of common offenders include:

  • Peanut butter
  • Different types of peanuts and tree nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Granola
  • Cereal
  • Salad dressing

Just keep in mind that these are just a handful of the many items that are made from nuts or have some relationship to nut products. Your doctor can help you develop a more thorough list and can give you some guidelines to follow.

It's also important to understand that even non-nut items may be processed on the same equipment as those used for nuts and even this little bit of exposure could be too much. In addition, even coming into contact with others who have touched or eaten a peanut product could cause you to have a reaction. Therefore, make sure to let everyone around you know about your condition and the risks involved. This can help you to stay safe and avoid any problems.