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Peanut and tree nut allergy in childhood


Robert A. Wood MD, Division of Allergy and Immunology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, CMSC 1102, 600 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21287, USA
Tel.: +1 410 955 5883
Fax: +1 410 955 0229


Peanut and tree nut allergies present multiple challenges in their presentation and management. These challenges have become increasingly relevant in recent years, as these allergies appear to have become more common. An estimated 1–2% of the population in the USA is allergic to peanut or tree nuts. Peanut allergy typically presents with symptoms in one of the first few exposures to peanut. Diagnosis is based on clinical history along with skin prick test, or quantitation of allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE), and oral food challenges when indicated. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the only current management approach is strict avoidance of the food. This is clearly an imperfect option as it can be difficult to avoid completely peanut and tree nuts and accidental exposures are not uncommon. Only about 20% of those with peanut allergy, and <10% of those with tree nut allergy, are reported to acquire tolerance. Additionally, peanut allergy can recur, with one study finding a recurrence rate of 8%. Peanut and tree nuts are the foods most frequently associated with fatal episodes of anaphylaxis. This is of particular concern in adolescents and young adults, among whom life-threatening and fatal food allergy-related reactions are most common.