Are all severe peanut allergies life-threatening?

Posted on: Wed, 10/13/1999 - 4:32am
Tina H.'s picture
Joined: 10/13/1999 - 09:00

Hi. My daughter had a reaction to peanut butter at age 1. Hives on her face and neck and swelling. No breathing problems or gastro problems. First of all, from your experience, do you consider this to be anaphylactic? The symptoms went away completely on their own. She had a skin test six months later, and it was 4plus. At age 5, she had a blood test that came back over 100. She has never had another reaction. She's eight years old now. Though we are careful, and always carry two epipens and benadryl, we do travel and eat in restaurants often. I guess my hopeful question is this: Is there any chance that even if she had another reaction, (which she probably will have in her lifetime) is it at all possible that it would only result in hives, and not be life-threatening? I know her allergy is severe because of the test results, but are these results the true indication of what the reaction will be? I really appreciate your responses. As all of you, I worry about my little sweetheart every waking moment. I need a little peace of mind. Thank you.

Posted on: Wed, 10/13/1999 - 6:59am
Marietta Carter's picture
Joined: 08/10/1999 - 09:00

Sorry, the only peace of mind I can offer you is what I was told by the Food Allergy Network. The biggest factor in deaths resulting from peanut allergies is not using the epi-pen or not using it soon enough. From what I've read on this board, the allergy is unpredictable and you have to assume any incident of accidental exposure could be life-threatening. My son's only reaction so far was similar to your daughters and his lab results were 4 as well. His allergist has instructed us to administer epi-pen and call 911 with any accidental exposure. Better safe than sorry.

Posted on: Wed, 10/13/1999 - 11:25am
Shawn's picture
Joined: 09/07/1999 - 09:00

Same here. My 15 month old had only the hives/swelling reaction, too. Our pediatrician, in consultation with an allergist/pediatric allergist, told us we didn't even need to bother with testing. The reaction he had indicated that his allergy was severe. They told me that the problem is that the reactions tend to get worse with repeated exposure, so even though this one cleared up on its own, the allergy was severe enough that the next one could be anaphylactic. So we carry Epi-pens and Benadryl all the time and dread the day that we can't police every bite of food that goes into his mouth.

Posted on: Wed, 10/13/1999 - 2:13pm
LoriHuhn's picture
Joined: 09/23/1999 - 09:00

This is a confusing issue for allergist says that "usually" reactions don't get more severe with each exposure. That "usually" the reaction you have the first time is what will happen in the times to come. I have friends who have been told that each time the reaction gets worse. We just operate under the asumption that my son's reaction will be life-threatening, but does anyone have the right answer to that question?

Posted on: Thu, 10/14/1999 - 12:21am
Mel's picture
Joined: 09/21/1999 - 09:00

Lori I have to disagree with your allergist.
My husband is PA since an infant. He is 35 now and his reactions get worse with each exposure. He was going to take part in the peanut testing with Dr. Sampson, but after Dr. Sampson spoke with his doctor they all decided that he can't take the chance. That is why avoidence is so important. Each PA person reacts differently. Some to smell and touch others to ingestion. My husband does not get hives or early warning signs any more. His asthma is effected and he stops breathing. Then he loses his bodly functions. I don't tell you these things to scare you. I just worry when some doctors don't take it seriously enough. I keep notes and list the different signs and when I gave the epi or epi's and inhalers and medication. I keep this and it helps to look back and see if maybe there is a pattern or maybe something he or I should have done differently or even the doctors. I know that it sounds like I do a lot for my husband, but his last exposure 2 years ago left him in a coma and he has suffered some brain damage from it. The doctors figure he was without oxygen for 8 to 15 min. We have know idea what caused the reaction. The doctor's say cross contamination of some kind. So when I read all the messages from Mom's and Dad's I really feel for everyone. I have seen my husband go thru the worst reaction ever and come back fighting. I'm trying to get documentation for Chris so he can have proof of how serious this really can be.
Just to let you know the reason my husband was willing to particpate in the study is because he doesn't want a child to have to go thru what he has gone thru. They are very close to helping the PA person, maybe not a complete cure, but to give them some time to get medical attention.
Thanks for letting me vent. My husband is an adult, but I do worry to. Thanks again

Posted on: Thu, 10/14/1999 - 12:26am
Tammy James's picture
Joined: 06/01/1999 - 09:00

Our allergist told us (a year and a half ago) that each exposure/reaction would be worse, and that every time the epipen is used, its benefit is lessened. (Meaning one time it would help for 15 minutes, the next time maybe only 10.) Our son was tested at 18 months, although we suspected the allergy at 15 months. His first reaction was coughing for about an hour, until he vomited, then he seemed fine. The second reaction was much faster, with the same coughing and vomiting, but he also experienced wheezing and drowsiness, as well as hoarseness. Both reactions were just from a tiny lick of peanut butter. So from my own experience, the second reaction was definitely worse than the first. We consider ourselves very blessed that nothing terrible happened, because at that point we had no epipens, and we would have had no idea what to do since we didn't know anything about the allergy. We were told that, yes, his allergy is life-threatening, and that we should give the epi even if we only suspect that he's eaten something with peanuts or nuts.
[This message has been edited by Tammy James (edited October 14, 1999).]

Posted on: Thu, 10/14/1999 - 2:44am
EILEEN's picture
Joined: 04/06/1999 - 09:00

There does seem to be two different lines of thought here. First that reactions will always get worse on repeated exposure and second that it is impossible to predict. Without documention of all exposures in many individuals it is impossible to say which is correct. I have read that the body systems are less able to handle/tolerate the effects of a massive allergic reaction and that this is one of the reasons why the allergic reaction to peanuts may appear to get worse with age. If FAN/Sampson come through with the Peanut Registgry (has anyone hear back after registering, I haven't) this data should become available. If the effectiveness of the EpiPen really diminishes with use (I had never heard of that before) then it would seem more logical to me to HOLD OFF from using it until you are sure there is a reaction to treat-or you could quickly use to all your effective uses. At this point, I think everyone peanut allergic individual needs their OWN SPECIFIC emergency plan, rather than a generic "one fits all" response, this condition is so variable.

Posted on: Thu, 10/14/1999 - 1:00pm
brenda's picture
Joined: 01/22/1999 - 09:00

I was told this by a ped allergist AND also Dr. Sampson said the same thing at the FAN conference: although the peanut allergy is unpredictable and any reaction could result in anaphylaxis, ON AVERAGE the next reaction a person has will repeat what the previous reaction was.
They also said at the FAN conference that you can't get immune to epi.

Posted on: Thu, 10/14/1999 - 1:28pm
Noreen's picture
Joined: 01/24/1999 - 09:00

However, if the guesstimate is that only 6% of all peanut allergic people have anaphylactic reactions AND only anaphylactic reactions are life-threatening, then somewhere in the remaining 94% you might guess that reactions aren't worsening.
No matter where one falls in the mix, it still makes sense to carry an Epi-Pen and have a sound emergency plan in place.

Posted on: Thu, 10/14/1999 - 2:04pm
LoriHuhn's picture
Joined: 09/23/1999 - 09:00

thank you brenda for your reply. My allegist (who went to school with Dr. Sampson) said that same thing. In general that your reaction basically stays the same. Although he also states there are no absolutes with this allergy. We plan as though each reaction will be life-threatening, but it seems that this is so much confusing information being given out by everyone's own allergists. I trust Dr. Sampson.

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