Category Archives: Peanut Allergy
Origins of Peanuts
So it seems that there is some confusion between peanuts and tree nuts. When I tell people my daughter has a severe peanut allergy they will usually ask if she can have other nuts like almonds or pecans. I have a whole speech saved in my head for just that occasion. I explain that peanuts are a legume. Legumes are in the bean family and grow in the ground, while tree nuts (hence the name) grow on trees. I find it interesting that people are so used to shopping at the stores and finding things on shelves, that they don’t really know the origin of their food. So let’s talk about peanuts…
According to Wilkipedia – The peanut, or groundnut (Arachis hypogaea), is a species in the legume or “bean” family (Fabaceae). The peanut was probably first domesticated and cultivated in the valleys of Paraguay. It is an annual herbaceous plant growing 30 to 50 cm (1.0 to 1.6 ft) tall. The leaves are opposite, pinnate with four leaflets (two opposite pairs; no terminal leaflet), leaflet is 1 to 7 cm (⅜ to 2¾ in) long and 1 to 3 cm (⅜ to 1 inch) broad.
The flowers are a typical peaflower in shape, 2 to 4 cm (0.8 to 1.6 in) (¾ to 1½ in) across, yellow with reddish veining. each Hypogaea means “under the earth”; after pollination, the flower stalk elongates causing it to bend until the ovary touches the ground. Continued stalk growth then pushes the ovary underground where the mature fruit develops into a legume pod, the peanut – a classical example of geocarpy. Pods are 3 to 7 cm (1.2 to 2.8 in) long, containing 1 to 4 seeds.
Peanuts are known by many other local names such as earthnuts, ground nuts, goober peas, monkey nuts, pygmy nuts and pig nuts. Despite its name and appearance, the peanut is not a nut, but rather a legume.
Archeologists have dated the oldest specimens to about 7,600 years, found in Peru. Cultivation spread as far as Mesoamerica, where the Spanish conquistadors found the tlalcacahuatl (Nahuatl = “peanut”, whence Mexican Spanish, cacahuate and French, cacahuète) being offered for sale in the marketplace of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City). The plant was later spread worldwide by European traders.
Although the peanut was mainly a garden crop for much of the colonial period of North America, it was mostly used as animal feed stock until the 1930s. In the United States, a US Department of Agriculture program (see below) to encourage agricultural production and human consumption of peanuts was instituted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. George Washington Carver is well known for his participation in that program in which he developed hundreds of recipes for peanuts.
Today was Orthodox Easter and my parents came to pick up my girls for an Easter Egg hunt at their church. We then met for dinner, and on the way home in the car, Bean was telling me how her sister and her each got chocolate Easter Bunnies. She said that Bubbles’ chocolate bunny was not safe, but that the white chocolate bunny she got was safe! Woohoo! When they got home we went through their bags and found that the white chocolate bunny had peanut butter in it. Most of the other goodies also had peanuts or were unsafe for her too. The thing is the white chocolate bunny had peanut butter as an ingredient, so it did NOT state on the allergen warning that it contained peanut butter. My daughter looked at the warning, but not the ingredients themself.
One other thing, if peanuts or peanut butter is in the ingredients list, it does not have to be included in the warning portion. Always, always read the full ingredients list AND the warning label.
When I told her she could not have the bunny after all she got really upset and said “I can’t have anything!!” Unfortunately, so many things with chocolate are unsafe for her. By then I pulled out her stash of candy and showed her all the candy that she CAN have. She was not having it and proclaimed that “none of it is chocolate though”. She looked so sad. I told her that we can get her special chocolate that is peanut free. She slowly replied, “I know, but it’s not the same. I can’t have a lot of things and I would really like to try them.” All I could say was, “I’m sorry. I am sorry that you have a peanut allergy. If I could make it go away, I would.” Then she asked me a question she never asked before, “Do you think I will outgrow my peanut allergy, like I did my egg allergy?” Based on what our allergist said, that since her allergy is so severe, she will probably never outgrow her peanut allergy. I told her, “Baby, I’m sorry, but you probably will not ever outgrow it.” The look on her face broke my heart. I hugged her and smoothed her hair and started to cry. I started feeling sorry for her, and said, “I’m sorry you cannot try everything, and I am sorry you couldn’t have that candy. I am sorry you have to bring your own treat to birthday parties, and I am sorry this will be something you will have to deal with the rest of her life. You know what though? Having a peanut allergy makes you a very special little girl”. She got up and ran and got her book, “The Girl Who Cannot Have Peanut Butter” and read it to me. She changed the name to her own, instead of Sam (the main character). Then she looked me square in the eyes and said, “It’s OK Mom! Everyone has something they cannot have, besides I probably wouldn’t like the taste of peanuts anyway and I would just spit them out.” She is such an amazing little girl, and it took her to remind me to not feel sorry for her or her allergy. It’s OK, she really can have so many other things, AND like the book says, “Everyone in class has something special or different that no one else has.”
Also, always, ALWAYS, read all the ingredients, not just the warning labels. If the allergen is listed in the actual ingredients, it does not have to be listed in the allergen warnings!
Book Review: The Princess and the Peanut Allergy
The Princess and the Peanut Allergy is a book written by Wendy McClure. It is a wonderful story of a little girl named Paula who has a peanut allergy. Her best friend, Regina, is having a princess birthday party with a beautiful birthday cake… that contains peanuts. Regina and Paula both get upset and have some hurt feelings at first, but the ending is very sweet and heart warming.
The Princess and the Peanut Allergy is a very cute book with a fairy-tale, birthday party, and princess story line – all a young girls favorite. It has a realistic situation, that any little girl with a peanut allergy could run into.
My daughter, Bean, loved this book!
I asked her for her what she thought about it, and she said, “I like it because I am just like Paula. I couldn’t eat the cake either, and would feel sad too.” She identified with the character and the situation. She liked it so much that she wrote about it in her journal on Friday at school, and her teacher suggested that she read it in front of the entire class on Monday. Friday night my parents kept my girls overnight, so we could go out for our 11th anniversary. She took the book with her and read it to her grandparents too. Then, on Monday she read it to her class. She said she was nervous at first, but then “took a deep breath” and read it. She said everyone clapped, and the teacher allowed the children to ask her some questions about her peanut allergy. A few children did ask questions. I love how this allowed the other children to get a little better understanding about peanut allergies and how very serious they are.
It has colorful, and cute illustrations, and a good story line. The Princess and the Peanut Allergy effectively addresses some of the social issues that children with food allergies face. “You’re not invited to my birthday party,” is the most painful words a young child can hear from a friend. These two girls figure out a way to get past this though. I did find it odd that Paula’s best friend, didn’t know she had a peanut allergy. However, it didn’t seem to make any difference to my daughter. She didn’t question it at all. She liked the book so much that she made a The Princess and the Peanut Allergy book mark!
It can be purchased here online at Amazon.com
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own and my daughters, and were in no way influenced by anyone else.
Ingredients meaning “Contains Peanuts”
The following ingredients means “CONTAINS PEANUTS”
- Arachic oil – peanut oil
- Arachis hypogaea – scientific name for peanuts
- Artificial nuts – can be peanuts that have been de-flavored and re-flavored with a nut, such as pecan or walnut
- Beer nuts
- Boiled Peanuts
- Cold pressed, extruded, or expelled peanut oil
- Goobers or Goober peas – pod of the peanut vine containing usually 2 nuts or seeds
- Ground or Crushed nuts/peanuts
- Groundnut & Monkey Nuts – British term for peanuts
- Earth nuts – name for several unrelated plants which produce a subterranean edible seed, fruit or root (a peanut is considered an earthnut)
- Hypogaeic Acid – an acid in the oil of the peanut, in which it exists as glyceride
- Mandelonas – peanuts soaked in almond flavoring.
- Mixed Nuts
- Nut peices
- Peanut butter chips or morsels
- Peanut flour
- Peanut paste
- Peanut sauce/syrup
- Spanish peanuts – have the highest oil content in all peanuts or nuts
- Virginia peanuts – Type of peanut
May Not Be Safe:
Lupine is a legume that cross-reacts with peanut at a high rate and should be avoided by peanut allergic patients. It does not fall under the labeling requirements of the FALCP (Food Allergen Labeling Protection Act). Lupine is also known as lupinus albus and can be found in seed or flour form.
ARACHIS HYPOGAEA aka Peanut
The other day at work, I was putting on some lotion and my coworker asked me what I was using. She said she liked how it smelled. I told her it was lotion by Avon, called Almond and Milk. I offered her some, but she explained that she could not use it because her son, Tyler, has a tree nut allergy. She then told me there are lots of things that she cannot use because of Tyler’s allergy, including lotions, body washes, shampoos, and even laundry detergent. Yep you heard right, laundry detergent. Specifically she referred to Seventh Generation laundry detergent. She said that several contain almond oil as in ingredient, and Tyler reacts to it. So, before I blogged about this to all of you, I checked it out for myself. I went to Seventh Generation’s website, and randomly clicked on Natural 4X Laundry Detergent Geranium Blossoms and Vanilla. I really didn’t expect to find any almond oil. However, there it was in the ingredients! Listed in the ingredients it says, “(prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil”. Here is the link to check it out yourself.
It always amazes me where allergies can lurk. I previously posted about where peanuts can be hidden. For those of you who have peanut allergies, there is a great list of common things that may contain. You can see my previous post here. I had no idea that Arachis Hypogaea was the scientific name for peanuts and Arachis Oil is actually peanut oil!
Always be sure to read ingredients, whether it is in food or other products. You never know where hidden dangers may be lurking.
The Leprechauns Visited
On the night before St. Patrick’s Day, the Leprechauns come to visit our home. They play little tricks and are mischievous. They never do any damage, but they like to make a great big mess. As they are running through the house green four-leaf clover (lucky) coins and chocolate (peanut free) coins fall out of their pockets all over the house. This is what we woke up to this morning…
Our living room
Bean’s leprechaun trap that she made for school
Bean’s trap was sprung, but no Leprechaun, just a note. :0(
The note left by Lucky.
Hope all of you have a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day!
Always Carry Your Epipen
When my daughter was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy 6 1/2 years ago, I started noticing anything and everything having to do with peanut allergies. I read news articles, blogs, medical reports, and caught as many newscasts as I could. However, I also read the very sad stories of children who have died from accidental peanut ingestion. It reminds me of how very serious and deadly Bean’s peanut allergy truly is. While reading these somber articles, I always look for the cause. What caused the child to eat something with peanuts? I make mental notes and add them to my list of do’s and don’ts that I need to teach my daughter. I know there is no way of keeping her 100% safe, other than putting her in a peanut free bubble. Yes, I have actually considered it a time or two. However, her peanut allergy is something she is going to have to live with the rest of her life (or until they find a cure). In the meantime, I have to let her experience school, and friends, and life in general. I just hope and pray every day that if a situation does arise, that she remembers what I have taught her and will make wise choices.
It is estimated that 50 – 62 percent of fatal cases of anaphylaxis were caused by peanut allergies. This terrifies me, because all it takes is one accidental ingestion. One mistake. This is why carrying an Epipen is a MUST. In many of the stories where someone lost their life to a food allergy, an Epipen was not easily accessible, or the allergic person did not have one with them at all. One girl was at camp and left hers in her cabin. In another story, he was moving and it was packed in a box. And in another the mom left it in the car while grocery shopping. The reality of it is that anaphylactic reactions happen when you least expect them to. No one ever says, “oh what the heck, give me that peanut butter cookie. I have my Epipen handy.” So the time you will need your Epipen the most is when you expect to need it the least. I realize it may not be convenient to do, but find a way to keep it with you everywhere you go. All it takes is one slip up, and it could cost a life.
Also, invest in a medic alert bracelet. Reactions come on quickly and close off airways, making it impossible to talk. At least pointing at the bracelet will alert people about what is happening if you do have a reaction.
Airborne Peanut Allergies?
I have been asked this question so many times, “Does your daughter react if the allergen is airborne?” The first time I was asked, was by my daughter’s preschool teacher. Honestly, I didn’t know. I explained we keep a peanut free home, and I have never eaten anything with peanuts around her. I had to call my daughter’s allergist and ask. Her allergist explained that all children with peanut allergies can have an airborne allergic reaction, but typically it is uncommon.
Research has shown that cooking or heating peanuts can release allergens into the air and can cause reactions. However, researchers simulated different settings including a school cafeteria, an airplane, and a sporting event. Study participants wore personal air monitors while sitting next to open jars of peanut butter, while sitting next to someone who ate a peanut-butter sandwich, and while sitting next to someone as they opened multiple packages of peanuts. All were in an enclosed area. In the last study people shelled and ate peanuts, then threw the shells on the floor and walked around on them. In none of these cases were the researchers able to detect any airborne peanut protein. Finally, the last study was of 30 children with documented allergies to peanuts did not have any reaction after breathing with a cup of peanut butter held one foot from their nose over a 10-minute period.
Yet another study found three cases of children who had allergic reactions to peanuts in the classroom in which a teacher or other adult was watching the child and knew that the child did not touch or eat the peanuts. In all of these cases, peanut butter was being heated up in the classroom.
I still would rather not chance it, but it’s good to know that in case we ever do end up in any of those situations, the likelihood of my daughter having a reaction is slim.
Information copied from http://foodallergies.about.com/od/foodallergybasics/a/Clean-Peanut-Residue.htm
Cleaning Residual Peanut Proteins
This week my daughter went on a field trip with her class to a museum. Places like that always worry me, because people are allowed to bring in their own food. You never know when some child might be walking around with a PB&J or some cheese and peanut butter crackers touching everything in site. Anyone who deals with someone who has a peanut allergy needs to be aware of the dangers of residual peanut proteins that can be left behind anywhere that peanut butter has been – surfaces, hands, and mouths. Peanut proteins like to hang around and are not washed away with just water alone. Luckily, there has actually been research done to find the most effective way to clean up peanut proteins.
Hard Surfaces: If peanut butter gets on a counter, table, desk, or any other hard surface, wiping it down with a wet rag/sponge will not remove the peanut proteins from the surface. Research shows that even washing with dish detergent left a tiny but detectable trace of peanut proteins behind, however, the amount should be low enough to not cause a reaction. The only tried and true way of removing all detectable traces of peanut residue from the surfaces is to use a liquid cleaner that contains bleach, or disinfecting wipes, such as Lysol Wipes. My daughter’s allergist actually wrote up a letter to her school saying their her peanut-free lunchroom table needs to be wiped down using a clean rag/sponge that is dedicated only to the peanut free table, in order to avoid cross contamination.
Hands: As far as washing hands goes, water alone does not remove peanut proteins from the skin, and neither does hand sanitizer. The only way to effectively remove all detectable traces of peanut residue from hands is to wash with liquid/bar soap and water. Proper hand washing techniques should be followed: Wet hands with warm or hot water, apply soap, lather well, rub hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing all surfaces including the backs, wrists, between your fingers, and under your nails, rinse well, and dry hands with a clean or disposable towel. If possible, use the towel to turn off the faucet. In case water is not accessible, wipes such as Wet One wipes and Tidy Tykes wipes also proved to be effective, but should not be used as a replacement for hand washing.
Mouths: Researchers studied participants who ate two tablespoons of peanut butter. They then measured the peanut protein levels in their saliva for several hours. They allowed them to rinse their mouths with water, brush their teeth, and chew gum, however none of these activities lowered the peanut protein level in their saliva to one that would not potentially cause a reaction in someone with a peanut allergy. The only thing that did lower the peanut protein levels was eating a peanut-free meal, and waiting several hours. Licking your lips, after eating peanut butter, and then kissing a peanut allergic person on the cheek can cause a skin reaction, while kissing them on the lips can cause an even more serious reaction, especially if they lick their lips right away. When your child begins dating, their dates should be fully aware of the allergy ahead of time. If their date ate something that could even be considered questionable, kissing should be completely avoided.
If a contact allergic reaction does occur, oral antihistamines such as Benadryl can reduce the level of histamine in the body, lessening the reaction. Also, topical hydrocortisone creams can also lessen the itching, redness and inflammation.
Information taken from http://foodallergies.about.com/od/foodallergybasics/a/Clean-Peanut-Residue.htm
To party or not to party?
This weekend, I was faced with a situation that I had not faced before. Bean was invited to a birthday party for one of her classmates. The party was at her classmates home, and I do not know the parents at all. Up until now, she has always been invited to parties at public places (I stayed in the facility just in case), or to houses of close friends who are very aware of her severe peanut allergy and know how to use her Epipen. I was leery of letting her go to the party, but she really wanted to go. Her friends from her class were going and she was excited to go too. I did text the mom that Bean was coming to the party, and also that she has a severe peanut allergy. I offered to bring something for her to eat, and also to bring her a dessert, in case the food would not be safe. The mom explained it was just pizza, ice cream, and cookie cake. I am pretty confident with pizza being safe for her, but the ice cream is questionable, and the cookie cake was really questionable to me. She said she would check the labels to make sure there is no peanuts. I kept wondering if she would consider “made on the same equipment” or “may contain” as containing peanuts? Has she ever been properly shown how to use an Epipen? I figured that when I dropped her off, I could double check the ingredients in the foods. However, I did not want the mom to think I was being rude by double checking her. Also, I didn’t know if she knew how to use an Epipen, so I figured I could always show her at drop off. Would she remember how to use it though, if I showed her how to use it while everyone was arriving? So many what-ifs? I even considered asking if I could stay during the party. I could double check the food, not have to worry about showing her how to use an Epipen, and help her out in any way I could. I didn’t know if any of the other parents were staying though, and I don’t want to be considered a helicopter mom. I just need to keep my daughter safe. I even asked another allergy group I am on what they thought. I got lots of advice from people who have a child the same age as Katrina, and how they handle it. 31 people responded and almost all of them said to stay there, and double check the labels. I had my speech for the mom all worked out about me staying. However, that morning my daughter woke up with a stuffy nose and complained that her ear hurt “really really bad”. I took her to the pediatrician and she has a sinus and ear infection. She was bummed to be missing the party, but she ended up staying home. It was almost a relief for me that she wasn’t going. It meant I didn’t have to have an awkward conversation with the mom about double checking the food or staying during the party.