Login | Register

What is the difference between peanut sensitivity and peanut allergy?

24 replies [Last post]
By gw_mom3 on Wed, 02-14-07, 20:20

I got a new Woman's Day in the mail today and it has a little blurb in it about the book called "The Peanut Allergy Answer Book-the 2nd Edition". It says it's "filled with practical tidbits such as how to tell the difference between being peanut-sensitive and peanut-allergic".

I thought peanut sensitivity could easily turn into an allergy with no warning so it should be treated as an allergy would be. I would hate for people like teachers to read this book and think they can determine whether a child who has a peanut allergy is really only "peanut sensitive".


Groups: None
By KaraLH on Wed, 02-14-07, 21:34

Interesting. I don't really know the answer, but I do know that at our last visit with my daughter's allergist, we determined that my daughter may not have a peanut allergy, nut definetly has a sensitivity.
She has MFA's and he said because of that she has built up a sensitivity. He also said because of her MFA history we should not give her peanuts because the chance of it developing into a true peanut allergy is high.
We don't take chances. I've done enough reading here.
My concern to is that others will not see the need for caution. It is hard to explain to others.


Groups: None
By Lori Jo on Wed, 02-14-07, 21:37

I have no idea. I'm looking forward to what others have to say about it. Sounds like it could just add to the confusion though.

Lori Jo,

Rose, 7-31-02, PA
Beatrice & Georgia, 8-14-99

Groups: None
By krc on Wed, 02-14-07, 21:54

I didn't even realize there was such a thing as peanut sensitivity. I thought you were either allergic or not allergic.

Groups: None
By BriandBrinasmom on Wed, 02-14-07, 21:58

The difference from a clinical perspective is whether the reaction is "IgE mediated" or not. There are some people who have IgG reactions (typically gut symptoms only) that are not true allergic responses, or who have an intolerance to a food not related to the immune system at all (i.e. lactose intolerance).

From a practical perspective, I'm not sure anyone but a doctor could differentiate.

Groups: None
By jtolpin on Thu, 02-15-07, 16:04

No difference.


It's just semantics.


[b]* Beyond Obsessed * [/b]

Groups: None
By Corvallis Mom on Thu, 02-15-07, 16:28

I think there is a HUGE difference... semantics or not, "lactose intolerance" does not equal "milk allergy." Period, full stop.

A dietary intolerance is inconvenient, no doubt. You might [i]wish[/i] you could die if you screw up.... but you won't.

So-- BIIIIIG difference, IMO. Many people with intolerances tell others they have "food allergies" but in the next breath (rightly) diminish the impact of that statement by saying that they can "tolerate a little" or that symptoms "Are really just uncomfortable."

Something that nobody should EVER confuse with a true IgE mediated food allergy. If the public understood that distinction better, maybe fewer people would self diagnose true food allergies and fewer of them would think that "a little can't hurt that much."


Groups: None
By Peg541 on Thu, 02-15-07, 17:33

Oh how scary. I think what you can't tolerate a little of today could become anaphylaxis tomorrow.

I know a woman whose mouth tingled when she ate peanuts all her life. In her 50's she ate fries cooked in peanut oil and by the time the paramedics came she was in full blown cardiac arrest!

Jason has it. Avoid avoid avoid and EDUCATE.


Groups: None
By krc on Thu, 02-15-07, 17:34

Quote:Originally posted by Corvallis Mom:
[b]I think there is a HUGE difference... semantics or not, "lactose intolerance" does not equal "milk allergy." Period, full stop.

A dietary intolerance is inconvenient, no doubt. You might [i]wish[/i] you could die if you screw up.... but you won't.

So-- BIIIIIG difference, IMO. Many people with intolerances tell others they have "food allergies" but in the next breath (rightly) diminish the impact of that statement by saying that they can "tolerate a little" or that symptoms "Are really just uncomfortable."

Something that nobody should EVER confuse with a true IgE mediated food allergy. If the public understood that distinction better, maybe fewer people would self diagnose true food allergies and fewer of them would think that "a little can't hurt that much."


I definitely understand the difference with other foods. I know *plenty* of people who tell me they are allergic to milk and then find out, not really, they just get a bellyache (usually right after I see them eat a big bowl of icecream). Or say they are allergic to chocolate and actually they just think it's the cause of their headaches.
But I have never heard of someone saying they had a peanut sensitivity as opposed to a peanut allergy.

10 yo dd- PA,TNA, tests pos to soy, CATS, many environmentals, Asthmatic
5 yo dd- NKA, avoiding nuts
3 yo dd- outgrown milk/soy, avoiding nuts

Groups: None
By Corvallis Mom on Thu, 02-15-07, 17:40

Exactly-- Peg has it.

Nobody should EVER EVER EVER 'self-diagnose' a peanut allergy... or "peanut-intolerance" if it turns out that such a thing exists...

My [i]guess[/i] is that a pn intolerance is probably much rarer than a PA-- but it might well explain a few people I know who anecdotally tell us that they or someone they know "outgrew" a 'mild' PA-- one so mild that they never did anything special for avoidance and never consulted a physician about it.

But again-- Peg is right. Anyone who even [i]thinks[/i] they might have an "issue" with peanuts needs to consult a physician and be tested for the IgE mediated variety of problem...

I mean, there's 'avoidance' and then there's [b]'avoidance.'[/b]

Groups: None
By njm on Thu, 02-15-07, 17:44

I think my BIL has peanut sensitivity vs. an allergy. When he eats or is around peanuts, he gets migraines. He doesn't have any other symptoms. His doctor says he's allergic but I don't think he's ever had allergy testing. I've always wondered whether he is truly allergic.

Groups: None
By chanda4 on Thu, 02-15-07, 18:02

migraines as a reaction is tough. My daughter gets a migraine if she eats chocolate or beef(especially at the same time, like a hamburger and choc milk), but she did test positive too....so who really knows. I do think it's a fine line and a hard one to determine without medical testing.

Our allergist used an example once...he had a 15 yr old boy in his office, everytime he drank milk he would throw up. He asked if I thought he was allergic...I actually said I bet he was lactose intolerant....I was right! They did test him anyways, milk allergy was negative.

Chanda(mother of 4)
Sidney-8 (beef and chocolate, grasses, molds, weeds, guinea pig & asthma)
Jake-6 (peanut, all tree nuts, eggs, trees, grasses, weeds, molds, cats, dogs, guinea pig & eczema & asthma)
Carson-3 1/2 (milk, soy, egg, beef and pork, cats, dog, guinea pig)
Savannah-1 (milk and egg)

Groups: None
By Andy'sMom on Fri, 02-16-07, 07:05

"Food allergy is a term that is used to describe adverse immune responses to foods that are
mediated by IgE antibodies that bind to the triggering food protein(s); the term is also
used to indicate any adverse immune response toward foods (e.g., including cell mediated
Sensitization indicates demonstrable IgE antibody to a food but does not equate with
clinical food allergy."

What I gather from this is that the difference is an *allergic* person would have a physical reaction while a *sensitive* person would have a positive test for IgE but no reactions. I totally agree that avoidance is necessary in both and that Woman's Day should have chosen a better description of the book. I have not read the book but I did read the excerpt on amazon and it does not seem, in the first few chapters at least, that the book would be that misleading. I could be wrong and would love to hear from someone who has actually read it.

Just got my Woman's Day today. Going to go search it now. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Groups: None
By Peg541 on Fri, 02-16-07, 07:17

I believe the use of the word "sensitization" in your example does not mean "SENSITIVE."

Sensitization is the process where you BECOME reactive to something you are allergic to.

You eat it once no reaction you make antibodies, you eat it again a bit of a reaction, you eat it again and you have anaphylaxis. Something like that. You have become sensitized.

Saying someone is sensitive to peanut as opposed to allergic I belive is unexplainable. I just don't see how this can be.


Groups: None
By LaurensMom on Fri, 02-16-07, 16:33

I believe the answer is that someone with a food allergy has an IgE response whereas a person with a sensitivity has an IgG response, which, from my understanding, is not immune system based. DH has that issue with shellfish. It causes him severe upset stomach/heartburn but does not cause an immune system response. I'm not sure if this is what they were talking about but it appears to fit the bill.


[This message has been edited by LaurensMom (edited February 16, 2007).]

Groups: None
By k9ruby on Sun, 02-18-07, 18:47

Sensitive: Inconvenient

Allergic: potentially fatal.

my best friends dad is sensetive to nuts. He has got bad headaches from them for over 30 years. (and no IgE)

I, on the over hand, could die, as I am anaphylactically allergic to nuts if i ate the tiniest trace.

Groups: None
By pitterpat on Sun, 02-18-07, 23:34

So, based on reading this thread, I have a question....will you have a positive spt if you are "sensitive" instead of "allergic"? I would assume your cap-rast would be neg. Am I right?

Just trying to wrap my mind around this one.


Groups: None
By Mrsdocrse on Mon, 02-19-07, 00:53

I have that book I looked in it and I don't recall it saying that there was a food sensitvity... I do know that I asked my allergiest about My DH who's mouth gets ichy when he eats walnuts. He said that is not an allergy but " oral allergy syndrome" nothing else happens when he eats then and it goes away shortly after he eats them.. He said that kind thing actually has to do with tree pollen allergy not the nut itself.. so maybe that is it?


Groups: None
By Corvallis Mom on Mon, 02-19-07, 01:02

I know that OAS to peanut can be associated with grass pollen allergy, supposedly. But I've never actually seen anyone who had the problem.

DD is probably allergic enough to grass pollen that she [i]could[/i]... but she's otherwise 'exempt' from consideration, I think. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/wink.gif[/img] LOL!!

Yes-- in my observations, someone who has a "sensitivity" to a food rather than an allergy will have a low to negative RAST value to it. If the sensitivity is serious enough (or if it is OAS) they [i]might[/i] skin test mildly positive... but things like lactose intolerance, you don't "test" allergic. Because it isn't an allergy.

I mean, excluding those people who have false positive allergy tests, I suppose... one of them could actually have a "sensitivity" but think that they have an 'allergy' because of a false positive test, if that makes sense. But I have to think [i]that[/i] would be an [i]exceptionally small[/i] number of people. KWIM?

[This message has been edited by Corvallis Mom (edited February 18, 2007).]

Groups: None
By Lam on Mon, 02-19-07, 01:18

I'll throw my non-FA son's situation into the mix.

He has GI problems with (too much) wheat, soy, chocolate, annatto, cinnamon, paprika, and blue no. 1.

He was allergy tested (blood) for everything except blue no. 1. He's not allergic to any of them. I consider him "sensitive" or "intolerant" to them. It's not an official label, but it works for his situation.

He can have a little bit of all those things, but at any given moment, his body reaches the point where it's too much, and he has GI problems. We're hoping his system is just a bit immature - that would make sense with his neurological disorder - and he'll outgrow it. Time will tell.

Groups: None
By GinaC on Mon, 02-19-07, 22:42

I attended a conference recently where a well-known allegist said that all peanut allergies need to be taken seriously. She said there is no such thing as a "mild peanut allergy". She said its like "you're either pregnant or you're not.

Another doctor at the same conference talked about how other antibodies (namely IgG) are being studied as far as their role in anaphylaxis.

In the past, doctors would dismiss patients who self-reported allergic symtpoms when they tested negative by standard (IgE) allergy testing.

Now they know that not only can IgG cause delayed reactions, abnormally high numbers of eosinphils but they also can play a role in severe allergic reactions.

Our allergist told me that he has seen patients who had negative rast to peanuts and still react. Maybe undetectible levels or perhaps another antibody plays a role.

Either way, if someone feels they are "sensitive" to peanut, I'd call it an allergy.

Emily VonderMeulen's parents attended the conference that we hosted here earlier this month. She had NEVER had a severe food allergy reaction of any kind--until her first and last anaphylaxis--believed to be caused by trace peanut contamination.

I cringe whenever I hear about a "mild peanut allergy" or peanut sensitivity.

This is from anaphylaxis Canada's wonderful website...

"True or False: People who experience

Groups: None
By hopechapel on Thu, 02-22-07, 22:35

This has me confused too and after reading all this I am still confused. I understand the difference between a sensitivity, intolerance and the antibody thing -- BUT when my friend, whose child has a beesting allergy plus some other environmentrals told me that peanut used to make her son itchy --- I looked at her --- and she said -- "if he were allergic, he'd be dead - he eats lots of peanut butter" I don't get it. Doesn't itchy mean allergy? and isn't PA unpredictable? Could this kid end up like the 50 year-old eating french fries? She goes to a really good allergist. But maybe she never mentioned his mild itch. dunno

Groups: None
By jtolpin on Fri, 02-23-07, 13:34

This shouldnt be all that confusing.

Call it whatever the heck you want. The next time a 'peanut sensitive' person eats a peanut product, he could be DEAD. There no rhyme/reason... Reactions change over time.

Pardon my bluntness, but an allergy is an allergy... Intolerance... sensitivity.. allergy... who cares??? Just avoid the darn product. Call it a zebra if you want.

As for GinaC... Hi! Nice to see you again! I see things are going well. How's your son?


[b]* Beyond Obsessed * [/b]

Groups: None
By NoPeanutsPlease.com on Fri, 02-23-07, 15:28

Any peanut allergy must be taken very seriously. Our daughter had a few skin reactions to something (we thought peanut, but were not sure) and we contacted our doctor.

Our first indication that it might be peanut came after I ate peanut butter toast and kissed her cheek without thinking ... she had hives almost on contact and that made us think that it was peanut we were dealing with.

We moved the allergist appointment up but still had two months to wait. In the interim our daughter ate a peanut-safe cookie that inadvertently came into contact with a peanut-butter-with-peanuts cookie from a cookie exchange. Without even eating a visible amount of peanut our daughter went into a full anaphylactic reaction. Scary stuff.

The paramedic said that we did the right thing in calling 911 right away ... he said that it is very dangerous to play with a peanut allergy of any severity.

Based on our experience, a parent or teacher would be making a very dangerous choice to treat a milder peanut allergy in a more relaxed fashion than a severe allergy.

You can't really tell.



It Takes A Village ...

Groups: None
By GinaC on Sun, 02-25-07, 01:02

Hi Jason,
Doing very well. I have a children's book sponsored by Dey (EpiPen)coming out this summer and I'm working with a bunch of allergy parents on various projects.

Hope you're doing well and all your girls are well.

I agree with your comments on this issue too btw. Anyone who wants to read more about "mild" peanut allergy should google Emily VonderMeulen and read her story.

Take care all,

Groups: None

Peanut Free and Nut Free Directory

Our directory is highlights our favorite products for people with peanut and nut allergies.