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Peanut free diet: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


Why is it used?

Avoidance of peanuts and peanut containing foods is required in allergies to the nut. Avoidance can mean not only not eating peanuts but also not being able to touch or inhale peanuts.

Symptoms, typically are severe, and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, urticaria, swelling of the face, abdominal pain, eczema, asthma and anaphylactic shock. If untreated can lead to death.

Who would require the diet?

Peanut allergy is increasing and the age that it affects an individual is decreasing. This is probably due to the earlier introduction of peanuts into the diet. It normally occurs within the first 2 years of life and the condition usually is lifelong. If peanut allergy occurs as one of several allergies there is a greater chance of it getting better in due course.

What is the diet and how does it work?

It is a very difficult diet to follow as peanuts and peanut products are present in very many foods, it is especially difficult for children who can unwittingly come into contact with peanuts and peanut products through their friends.

Foods that are most likely to contain peanuts are cakes, biscuits, pastries, ice cream, desserts toppings for desserts and cakes, cereal bars, peanut butter, nut spreads, satay sauce, ground nuts, mixed nuts, confectionery, vegetarian products, curies, salad dressings, breakfast cereals and East Asian dishes.

Will the diet harm me?

If a balanced diet is followed, then omitting peanuts from the diet will not be a problem, it may not be as varied since many of the treat foods are not available.

What else do I need to know?

Strictly speaking the peanut is a legume (e.g. peas, beans and lentils), avoidance of these is not essential as most people allergic to peanuts are not allergic to legumes. It is more common to be allergic to tree nuts such as brazil, almond and hazel. Because the allergic response to peanuts is dramatic often-requiring treatment it is very important to ensure that all traces of peanuts are avoided. Crude (unrefined) peanut oil may contain traces of the peanut protein, which causes the allergy, whereas refined may be acceptable.

Food labelling often gives information about whether peanuts may be present, but this is not always guaranteed, lecithin an ingredient common in many manufactured foods may be derived from peanuts. The general maxim is if in doubt leave it out.

Foods sold loose are unwrapped can also be a problem as contamination is a problem.

Some foods that are known to be peanut free may be excluded as they may have been manufactured in an area where even a small degree of contamination can occur.

Where else can I seek help?

A State Registered Dietitian can help assess if the diet is nutritionally balanced and provide practical suggestions with the diet. All doctors have access to a dietitian within the NHS alternatively you can contact the British Dietetic Association who can provide names of qualified dietitians who offer their services privately and who are able to help.

The British Dietetic Association
5th Floor,
Charles House
148/9 Great Charles Street Queensway
Birmingham B3 3HT

Tel: 0121 200 8080
Fax: 0121 200 8081

Although injectable adrenaline is provided by the patient's own doctor, the Anaphylaxis campaign will provide information and support.

The Anaphylaxis Campaign
2 Clockhouse Road
GU14 7QY

Tel: 01252 542029
Fax: 01252 377140

British Allergy Foundation
Deepdene House
30 Bellgrove Road
DA16 3PY