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When Your Child Has a Food Allergy: Peanut

Foods containing peanuts.

When a child has a peanut allergy, any contact with peanuts may cause a life-threatening reaction. For that reason, your child must stay away from peanuts and anything that contains them. Some children also need to stay away from tree nuts such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts. Ask your child's healthcare provider if your child should stay away from tree nuts, too. This sheet tells you more about your child’s peanut allergy. You’ll learn what foods your child should stay away from, what to look for on food labels, and how to prevent cross contact. Cross contact means that peanuts accidentally come in contact with foods your child can safely eat.

Peanut allergy: foods to stay away from

Read every label for peanuts. Also tell every restaurant that you go to with your child about your child's allergy. Many foods can have hidden peanuts. Take special precautions with these foods:

  • African, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Mexican, or Vietnamese cuisine. These often contain peanuts or have been in contact with peanuts.

  • Bakery cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, and sweet rolls. Even if they don’t have peanuts in them, they may have had contact with peanuts.

  • Prepared chili and pasta sauce. These may use peanut butter or peanut flour as thickener.

  • Chocolate candies, which often are in contact with peanuts. For more information, call the food maker’s toll-free number listed on the package.

  • Crushed nuts in sauces or sprinkled on salads and other foods

  • Granola, museli, or energy bars. These may contain peanuts, peanut flour, or peanut oil.

  • Ice cream and frozen yogurt. These may have had contact with peanuts.

  • Mixed nuts, artificial nuts, and nut pieces

  • Peanut butter and peanut flour

  • Pesto. This is an Italian sauce that often contains nuts.

  • Praline, marzipan, and nougat

  • Some prepared salad dressings

  • Worcestershire sauce and bouillon

What to look for on labels

U.S. manufacturers of packaged food items must state clearly on the label if it contains peanuts. Always read the whole ingredient label to look for peanuts. Peanut ingredients may be within the list of the ingredients. Or peanuts could be listed in a “contains peanuts" statement under the list of ingredients.

Foods that don't contain peanuts could be contaminated during manufacturing. Unfortunately, labels like "processed in a facility that also processed peanuts" or "made on shared equipment" are not regulated by the FDA. They are voluntary. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about whether your child may eat products with these labels or if your child should stay away from them.

Some foods and products don't have to state that they contain peanuts. These include:

  • Foods not regulated by the FDA

  • Cosmetics and personal care items

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medicines and supplements

  • Toys and crafts

  • Pet food

Preventing accidental exposure to peanuts

Food exposure

  • Take special care in Asian or buffet restaurants, bakeries, and ice cream parlors where cross contact is likely.

  • Don't eat baked goods that you don’t make yourself.

  • Use a “chef card” in restaurants. This special card explains your child’s allergy to restaurant workers. You can make your own card or print one from a website on the Internet.

  • When eating out, always tell restaurant workers about your child's food allergies, even if your child has eaten there in the past.

  • Fried foods may be cooked in peanut oil. Always ask at restaurants. Also, ask your child's healthcare provider whether your child needs to stay away from highly refined peanut oil.

  • Pack your child’s lunch and explain why he or she should never trade food.

  • Bring safe snacks and desserts to parties and outings.

  • Talk to adults who spend time with your child—caregivers, teachers, and other parents. Ask them not to serve foods made with peanuts or other nuts.

  • If you’re unsure whether a food is peanut-free, don't let your child eat it! Check the food maker’s website or call the toll-free number on the package.

Household exposure

Some children are more sensitive to peanuts than others. Certain children may react only to peanuts they eat. Other children can become very sick just from touching a peanut or inhaling its dust. Some families choose to make their house peanut free. Others do not. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about this issue. Keep in mind that peanuts are sometimes found in unexpected places, such as:

  • Ant traps and mouse traps

  • Bird food, dog food, hamster food, and livestock feed

  • Some skin creams, shampoos, and hair care products

  • Hacky Sacks and beanbags, which may be filled with crushed nut shells

Create a safety plan

  • Always carry 2 epinephrine auto-injectors. Make sure you and those close to your child know how to use it.

  • Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace with his or her allergy information.

  • If your child doesn’t have epinephrine auto-injectors, talk with your child’s healthcare provider to see if you should carry them.

  • Talk with your child's healthcare provider about making an anaphylaxis action plan in case of an accidental exposure to peanuts. Go over this plan with everyone who cares for your child.

If your child has ANY of the symptoms listed below, act quickly!

Use an epinephrine auto-injector right away if one has been prescribed. Then call 911.

  • Trouble breathing or cough that won’t stop

  • Swelling of the mouth or face

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Vomiting or severe diarrhea

There are many areas of ongoing research that focus on understanding allergies and allergic reactions. Please check with your child's healthcare provider about new research findings that may help your child.

© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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