Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies, particularly in Western populations. There are various ways in which an individual can become exposed to the peanut allergen. Some such routes of exposure include:
Oral ingestion is the most common route of peanut protein exposure and usually the allergic individual has unintentionally consumed the protein.
Exposure of the skin to peanut oil and peanut-based cosmetics has been known to cause allergic reactions.
Smelling or touching
It has also been suggested that simply smelling or touching peanuts can lead to an allergic response, although this has not been proven and experts suspect any reported symptoms are more likely manifestations of fear among individuals who know they are allergic.
Research into desensitization of peanut allergy has looked at two types of peanut desensitization:
Injected peanut desensitization
It has been suggested that injecting tiny but gradually increasing doses of peanut protein may lead to desensitization to the substance and therefore a cure of the allergy. However, studies have previously been abandoned due to the life threatening risks peanut injection presents.
In a placebo-controlled trial of desensitization to hazelnut extract among allergic individuals, the administration of increasing oral doses led to individuals tolerating a significantly increased threshold dose at the end of the 18-month study period, compared with baseline threshold levels.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc