Peanut Allergies Now Affecting More US Adults Than Children

The most recent findings from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology show that 20% of the adults who have peanut allergies and live in the United States developed their hypersensitivity to legumes after turning 18. To give a sense of the scale of this study, that percentage equates to more than 800,000 adults; sobering news for people who assumed peanut allergies were just a thing common to childhoods.

One of the main reasons why adults are considerably under-diagnosed than children boils down to two factors. First, you have medical professionals who were not explicitly checking for peanut allergies in their adult patients. Second, you have adults who are less likely to seek medical attention for their condition.

While the trigger for adult-onset peanut allergies remains unclear, several theories have arisen. Tennessee allergist Dr. Phil Lieberman posits that most of the people with this condition had oral allergy syndrome. This particular ailment happens to people with pollen allergies that can carry over to the consumption of fruits and nuts, hence the condition failing to manifest during childhood. Lieberman’s theory is backed by evidence that many of the survey’s respondents were prone to environmental allergies over people who discovered their peanut allergy as children.

If you believe that you might have a latent peanut allergy, it is vital that you have this verified with an allergist.

Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan is a Californian allergist for children and adults who caution that more adults claim to have a peanut allergy than have had their symptoms confirmed as an allergy by an allergist. Her “Ready, Set, Food” service seeks to shine a light on detecting allergens in early childhood; she hopes that such services will further people’s interest in seeking out an allergist to discern whether or not they have a specific allergy or are just experiencing false positives from some other condition.

Beyond just the revelation that adult-onset peanut allergies are considerably higher than anticipated, information without that study also clarifies that most children fail to outgrow an allergy to peanuts, which can lead to issues as an adult. Indeed, four out of five children reported to have a food allergy fail to “shake it off” through their teenage and adult lives. While the trajectory of children with peanut allergies has grown over the past two decades, it makes sense that there is also an increase in adults with that same allergy.

A less negative fact that arises from this particular study is that humans are becoming more aware of the signs and proliferation of allergies. Despite the relative newness and unclear understanding of food allergies, people are much more aware of food allergies, like gluten and peanuts, than in previous decades.

Information On Prevention and Treatment

Whether a person has had a peanut allergy since he was a child or discovers that it has manifested in his adult life, the symptoms and treatment for each of these camps remain virtually indistinct from each other. Concerned parties should reach out to a local allergist and consider having a prescription for epinephrine in cases where the allergic reaction is debilitating in its severity.

People who develop adult-onset allergies are less likely to have access to an auto-injector that imparts epinephrine; only around 44% of adults who discover that they now have a peanut allergy have an auto-injector. When the perspective is changed to adults who discovered their peanut allergy when they were still children, 56% of this demographic is confirmed to have some sort of auto-injector. While epinephrine can be a lifesaver during an allergic reaction, ongoing research into new antibodies is also shining a light on new ways of mitigating or preventing life-threatening episodes.

Any parent who understands that a peanut allergy is a hereditary condition, that several family members are known to have it, might be able to help their children from developing a peanut allergy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this “inoculation” is best done by exposing babies to common allergies, including peanuts, during the first few months of life.

While peanut allergies are something known to occur in adults, the public perception of peanut allergies is that they are only a concern for pediatricians and childhood. While the FDA approved a therapy for peanut allergies in minors between the ages of 4 and 17, no sort of FDA-approved treatments exist for patients suffering with an adult-onset peanut allergy.

In Summary

This one study has made the first steps in assessing just how severe peanut allergies are among the adult populace of the United States; any prior findings were just conjecture and educated guesses. We now know that there are far more American adults who cannot safely consume peanut butter sandwiches and other byproducts of the versatile legume than ever considered. While young adults are often the age group most commonly affected with this particular allergy, those young adults eventually become adults, often without ever becoming free of their allergy.