What chemical in peanuts causes allergies

Reactions that appear to involve the smell of peanuts in the air are really every about what you're actually inhaling.

As I said above, the chemical compounds that comprise what we ponder of as the "smell of peanuts" don't contain peanut protein and therefore don't cause an allergic reaction. However, peanut dust and little airborne particles of peanuts most definitely can cause an allergic reaction in someone with peanut allergy.

If every you're smelling is peanut butter, it's unlikely any dust or little pieces of peanut are floating in the air—after every, peanut butter is sticky, not dusty. One exception to this law is if you're smelling peanut butter near a nut butter grinder; it's not unusual for upscale grocery stores and health food stores to offer fresh-ground peanut butter, almond butter, and occasionally other types of nut butters.

These machines are a genuine potential risk and you should stay away.

Similarly, if people are shelling and eating peanuts in your vicinity, it definitely can spread peanut dust in the air. That means you could be smelling peanuts (which won't cause an allergic reaction by itself), but also actually inhaling dust and peanut particles (which can cause a severe reaction). This is an issue at stadiums that serve peanuts and in some stores and restaurants that offer free unshelled peanuts for customers to snack on.

In addition, when foods are cooked, they often release oils into the air—oils that can contain allergenic proteins and cause reactions. Boiled peanuts, or certain types of Asian foods that include peanuts and peanut sauce, could pose this risk.

Finally, trace amounts of peanut products can get onto hands and be ingested by someone with an allergy, causing a reaction, even if there's no peanut dust in the air.

So if you smell peanuts, you should be careful to wash your hands before eating or moving your hands near your mouth.


Peanut Allergy Involves Proteins

Your allergy to peanuts actually is an allergy to the specific proteins found in peanuts. These proteins are present in the peanuts themselves, and in foods made with the whole peanut. The proteins aren't present in purified peanut oil (which is fat, of course, not protein), and that's why most people who are allergic to peanuts can nonetheless consume peanut oil without getting a reaction.

Those specific allergenic peanut proteins also aren't present in the airborne flavor and aroma compounds that create the odor of peanuts.

The smell (or odor) of peanuts is contained in smaller organic compounds that are not peanut protein.

Yes, you inhale (and potentially ingest) these flavor and aroma compounds when you smell peanuts, but since they don't contain the problematic proteins, you won't react to them.

In fact, medical researchers own tested this: they exposed 30 peanut allergic subjects to peanut butter and a soy butter placebo for 10 minutes each at a range of one foot.

What chemical in peanuts causes allergies

Although the subjects could smell the peanut butter (and the soy butter, both of which were disguised by a combination of mint and tuna fish to hold participants from detecting which was which), none of them reacted to the peanut butter.

Many of these children had a history of prior contact-based or inhalation reactions to peanuts. The researchers concluded that "casual exposure to peanut butter" shouldn't cause problems in 90% of children who are highly sensitive to peanuts. That's not %, of course, so you still should be careful.


A Expression from Verywell

Just the smell of peanuts won't cause a reaction if you're allergic to peanuts.

What chemical in peanuts causes allergies

But the smell can warn you of the possible presence of actual peanut dust or oils in the air, and those can cause a potentially severe reaction. Tread with genuine caution if you're severely peanut-allergic and you believe you smell peanuts.

Thanks for your feedback!

A revolutionary treatment for allergies to peanuts and other foods is going mainstream—but do the benefits outweigh the risks?

By Jennifer Couzin-Frankel

Jacob Kingsley was 9 years ancient when he was handed the poison he’d shunned since before he could stroll and told to swallow it as medicine.

Obediently, he gulped below a few micrograms of peanut flour—less than 1/ of a peanut—diluted in grape Kool-Aid. His mom and a nurse hovered, ready to inject him with epinephrine if an itchy throat and wheezing struck.

Jacob’s mom, Jennifer Kingsley, had driven him 2 hours from their home in Columbus to this doctor’s office in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the first of dozens of sessions of peanut immunotherapy. Giving Jacob gradually increasing doses of peanuts, she hoped, would desensitize his immune system.

It’s a strategy Kingsley hadn’t pursued until she reached her breaking point.

A year earlier, Jacob had swallowed a handful of popcorn that, unbeknownst to him, was laced with peanut product. He suffered a particularly frightening reaction: two bouts of intense symptoms about 6 hours apart. The incident marked his second peanut-related journey to the emergency room, and Kingsley was terrified that the next encounter could be fatal. «I decided, ‘I can’t live love this,’» she says. «I was desperate.»

As Jacob sat through the hourslong appointment in Cincinnati, playing video games and swigging increasing doses of peanut-spiked Kool-Aid, he joined legions of children writing food allergy’s next chapter.

Today, more than people worldwide, most of them children, own undergone peanut immunotherapy, with the goal of protecting them if they accidentally encounter the food. Other children are trying immunotherapy for allergies to milk, eggs, and tree nuts. Some, love Jacob, get treatment in allergists’ offices, where doctors share protocols informally and in published papers. Other children own enrolled in clinical trials, including those run by two companies racing to introduce a peanut-based capsule or skin patch.

What chemical in peanuts causes allergies

Both plan to apply for approval from the Food and Drug istration (FDA) this year. The agency’s blessing would dramatically boost immunotherapy’s credibility and reach.

In a field that for decades has had nothing to offer patients beyond avoidance, immunotherapy marks a seismic shift. As it edges closer to mainstream, «There’s mixed feelings, with a whole range of enthusiasm,» says Corinne Keet, a pediatric allergist-immunologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. Fear that it might cause harm is mingling with euphoria that children living constrained lives could be set free. Doctors who offer immunotherapy describe families eating in Chinese restaurants for the first time and home-schooled children rejoining their peers.

Like numerous medical firsts, the therapy is not perfect.

«This is version ,» says Brian Vickery, a pediatric allergist-immunologist at Emory University in Atlanta. He has conducted peanut immunotherapy trials and worked for 2 years at Aimmune Therapeutics, headquartered in Brisbane, California, one of the companies whose products are nearing approval. Physicians fret about oral immunotherapy’s rigors—treatment must continue indefinitely—and its risks, which include the same allergic reactions it aims to prevent.

Final year in Japan, a kid suffered brain damage during a trial of immunotherapy for milk allergies.

Meanwhile, physicians on the front lines are navigating hazy science. No one knows exactly how immunotherapy works or who’s most likely to be helped or hurt by it. «For me,» Keet says, «it’s really not clear for an average kid with peanut allergy whether it will make sense to do oral immunotherapy or not.»

Like numerous who studyfood allergies, Keet was enticed by their mystery.

Animal models are poor. The intensity of allergic reactions varies unpredictably, even in the same person over time. Why one kid outgrows an allergy and another doesn’t is unknown.

«This was something we didn’t cover much in medical school» in the s, says Matthew Greenhawt, a pediatric allergist-immunologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver. Greenhawt’s career trajectory tracks with a surge in food allergies, and these days, he can barely hold up with the stream of affected children who visit his hospital. Today, between 1% and 2% of people in the United States, the United Kingdom, and several other countries are allergic to peanuts—a rate that has roughly tripled since the mids.

Other food allergies, such as those to tree nuts, are also on the rise. What’s causing the increase is not well understood.

Despite rising caseloads, deaths from food allergies remain rare. Precise numbers are hard to come by, and estimates range from fewer than 10 to more than a year in the United States. But even though an affected kid is more likely to be struck by lightning than to die of a food allergy, the risk can feel ever-present. Parents never know when their children will happen upon culprit foods and how they’ll be affected if they do. «We live in a complicated world—people move food every over the place,» says David Bunning, a businessman whose two sons, now adults, own multiple food allergies.

«The impact on children in terms of their confidence to explore their environment can be extreme.» Bunning’s family almost never traveled or ate out. At their grandparents’ home, the boys were generally confined to one room where food wasn’t allowed.

Bunning now chairs the board of directors at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), an advocacy group in McLean, Virginia. Families love his, and the doctors who cared for their children, began to agitate for new treatments about a decade ago. Immunotherapy was the obvious candidate: Injections that desensitize the immune system to pollen, grass, pet dander, and bee venom own been around for decades.

Whether for an allergy to cats or pistachios, immunotherapy aims to disrupt the cells that swing out of control when faced with an allergen.

When a kid who is allergic to a food eats it, food proteins cross from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. An antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is bound to white blood cells called mast cells in tissues, recognizes the culprits. IgE activates the mast cells, which release histamine and other chemicals. In the skin, that response can lead to hives; in the respiratory tract, wheezing; and in the gut, vomiting. The most serious symptoms, such as a swollen throat or a reaction throughout the body, mark anaphylaxis, which is what families fear the most. Allergy shots blunt production of IgE, in part, researchers believe, by boosting levels of certain T cells that immediate a cascade of immune changes.

Allergy to peanut, which is often severe, is one of the most common food allergies in the United States.

What chemical in peanuts causes allergies

Although previous studies own shown that peanut oral immunotherapy (OIT) — ingesting little, controlled amounts of peanut protein — can desensitize adults and children and prevent life-threatening allergic reactions, the optimal duration and dose is unknown. In a study that followed participants after OIT successfully desensitized them to peanut, discontinuing OIT or continuing OIT at a reduced dose led to a decline in its protective effects. The study, published online today in The Lancet, also found that several blood tests istered before OIT could predict the success of therapy. The Phase 2 study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, and may inform who may benefit from peanut OIT and what changes in this experimental treatment should be implemented.

Investigators at Stanford University enrolled people aged 7 to 55 with diagnosed peanut allergy in the Peanut Oral Immunotherapy Study: Safety Efficacy and Discovery, or POISED.

While otherwise avoiding peanut throughout the trial, 95 participants received gradually increasing daily doses of peanut protein up to 4 grams, and 25 participants received daily placebo oat flour OIT. After 24 months, participants were given gradually increasing amounts of peanut in a controlled environment, to assess their tolerance. Of those participants who received peanut OIT, 83% passed the peanut challenge without an allergic reaction, while only 4% on placebo OIT did so.

Those on OIT who passed the challenge were then randomized to get either placebo OIT or were switched to a mg daily dose of peanut protein. One year later, more participants on mg peanut OIT (37%) passed the challenge than those on placebo OIT (13%), confirming insights from smaller trials that desensitization is maintained in only a minority of participants after OIT is discontinued or reduced.

What chemical in peanuts causes allergies

Participants who passed food challenges also had lower initial levels of allergic antibodies to peanut protein and other indicators of allergic activity in the blood. Future research will focus on identifying optimal OIT regimens that maintain protection after therapy and will permit for regular food consumption without allergic symptoms.


Story Source:

Materials provided by NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  • R Chinthrajah et al. Sustained outcomes in a large double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized phase 2 study of peanut immunotherapy.

    The Lancet, DOI: /S


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NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. «Few people with peanut allergy tolerate peanut after stopping oral immunotherapy: Continuing with a modest dose confers more protection.» ScienceDaily.

What chemical in peanuts causes allergies

ScienceDaily, 13 September <>.

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (, September 13). Few people with peanut allergy tolerate peanut after stopping oral immunotherapy: Continuing with a modest dose confers more protection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, from

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. «Few people with peanut allergy tolerate peanut after stopping oral immunotherapy: Continuing with a modest dose confers more protection.» ScienceDaily.

(accessed January 29, ).


make a difference: sponsored opportunity

Cite This Page:

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. «Few people with peanut allergy tolerate peanut after stopping oral immunotherapy: Continuing with a modest dose confers more protection.» ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September <>.

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (, September 13). Few people with peanut allergy tolerate peanut after stopping oral immunotherapy: Continuing with a modest dose confers more protection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, from

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

«Few people with peanut allergy tolerate peanut after stopping oral immunotherapy: Continuing with a modest dose confers more protection.» ScienceDaily. (accessed January 29, ).


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