Ask the expert


Peanut allergy

My 4 year old daughter has recently been diagnosed with a peanut allergy.  The allergy nurse has said she may need an Epipen. We have no idea about nut allergy as no one in the family has ever had one before. Is there any advice you can give me while I’m waiting to see a consultant?

6 March 2019

It’s very hard not to feel overwhelmed when discovering something like this but with time and understanding of the condition it does become more manageable.

I’m assuming you’ve been given oral antihistamine therapy to give your daughter in case she develops any signs of an allergic reaction, while waiting for the review. This is the first line of treatment for anyone suffering from a food allergy, who inadvertently comes into contact with a food they should be avoiding.

Epipens are also commonly given if oral antihistamines aren’t found to be enough to stop the allergic response or if the response is quite severe. I am enclosing information from the NHS about food allergies including peanuts which is very comprehensive and useful to have, it gives you guidance on both living with and managing the condition, the types of treatments and red flags to watch for indicating emergency care is required. It’s worth noting that with good management the need for emergency care can usually be avoided.

As a general rule of thumb the key things you can do are as follows:

  • First and foremost, take care to exclude any peanut based foods from your daughter’s diet.
  • Make your daughter aware of the importance of avoiding food that hasn’t had the seal of approval from you – or someone you trust. 
  • Become an avid label reader of any food items you buy or use. By EU law food manufacturers are obliged to provide both a breakdown of ingredients used and warnings of the presence of allergic substances such as peanuts in a product. They must also indicate if a food has been prepared in an environment where nuts are used, which would indicate this product should also be avoided.
  • When eating out make sure you tell your server about your daughter’s allergy and don’t be afraid to check – and check again until you’re completely satisfied – that your daughter’s food doesn’t contain any trace of peanut.
  • Ensure you make your daughter’s nursery if she attends one, and later her school and the teachers are aware of your daughter’s allergy and extend this information to all the parents of her friends who may be involved in food preparation or meals or snacks for her.
  • You should also make contact with the school nurse when the time comes for her to go to school as they are well placed to ensure everyone at school is briefed in addition to ensuring they have supplies available such as an Epipen should it be needed while she is there.

You can read much more about this and food allergy treatment and management in this NHS Food allergy factsheet.  

I do hope you find this information useful as you wait for your follow up appointment. If during this time you become concerned that your daughter’s condition is worse in any way, please speak to your GP, who will give any initial treatment that may be needed. They may also ask for the follow up appointment with the hospital to be brought forward if necessary.

Sources and further reading

Allergies centre – AXA Health

Is food making you ill? – AXA Health

Answered by the Health at Hand team.

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