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When a child has a peanut allergy, the slightest contact with peanuts can cause a life-threatening reaction. For that reason, your child must avoid peanuts and anything that contains them. Some children also need to avoid tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts). This sheet tells you more about your child’s peanut allergy. You’ll learn what foods to avoid, what to look for on food labels, and how to prevent cross contact (when peanuts accidentally come in contact with foods your child can safely eat).
Peanuts can turn up in foods you’d never expect. They also may come in contact with food that is otherwise safe to eat. For that reason, it’s best to avoid all of the following:
African, Chinese, Indian, Thai, or Vietnamese cuisine (these often contain peanuts or have been in contact with peanuts)
Bakery cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, and sweet rolls (even if they don’t contain peanuts, they may have had contact with peanuts)
Prepared chili and pasta sauce (may use peanut butter or peanut flour as thickener)
Chocolate candies, which often are in contact with peanuts (for more information, call the manufacturer’s toll-free number listed on the package)
Crushed nuts in sauces or sprinkled on salads and other foods
Granola and energy bars (may contain peanuts, peanut flour, or peanut oil)
Ice cream and frozen yogurt (may have had contact with peanuts)
Muesli, granola, and other fruit-and-nut breakfast cereals
Peanut butter and peanut flour
Pesto, an Italian sauce that usually contains nuts
Praline, marzipan, and nougat
Some prepared salad dressings
Sunflower seeds (often processed on the same equipment as peanuts)
Worcestershire sauce and bouillon
Peanut allergies are very serious, so read labels carefully. Look for:
Expeller-pressed or cold-pressed peanut oil (refined peanut oil may be safe—ask your child’s allergist)
Arachis and arachis oil (alternate terms for peanuts and peanut oil)
Groundnuts (another term for peanuts)
Mandelonas (peanuts soaked in almond flavoring)
Food additive 322 or lecithin
The words “emulsified” or “satay” (peanuts may be used as a thickener)
Nu-Nuts artificial nuts (peanuts flavored to taste like other nuts, such as walnuts and pecans)
Hydrolyzed plant protein and hydrolyzed vegetable protein (usually made from soy, but sometimes from peanuts)
Natural and artificial flavoring from unknown sources, especially in barbecue sauces, cereals, and ice cream
Take special care in Asian or buffet restaurants, bakeries, and ice cream parlors where cross contact is likely.
Avoid baked goods you don’t make yourself.
Use a “chef card” in restaurants. This personalized card explains your child’s allergy to restaurant workers. You can make your own card or print one from a website on the Internet.
When eating out, order simple food, not complex dishes. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side.
Avoid fried foods, which may be cooked in peanut oil.
Pack your child’s lunch and explain why it’s best not to trade food.
Make your own snacks and desserts for parties and outings.
Talk to adults who spend time with your child—caregivers, teachers, and other parents. Ask them to not serve foods made with peanuts or other nuts.
If you’re unsure whether a food is peanut-free, check the manufacturer’s website or call the toll-free number on the package.
Some children are more sensitive to peanuts than others. Certain children may react only to peanuts they eat. Other children can become very sick just from touching a peanut, inhaling its dust, or being around someone eating peanuts. For that reason, make your home a peanut-free zone. Don’t bring peanuts, peanut butter, or foods that contain peanuts into the house. Keep in mind that peanuts are sometimes found in unexpected places, such as:
Ant traps and mouse traps
Bird food, dog food, hamster food, and livestock feed
Some skin creams, shampoos, and hair care products
Hacky Sacks and beanbags, which may be filled with crushed nut shells
If one has been prescribed, use an injectable epinephrine (such as EpiPen, Adrenaclick, Twinject) right away. Then call 911 or emergency services.
Trouble breathing or cough that won’t stop
Swelling of the mouth or face
Dizziness or fainting
Vomiting or severe diarrhea
There are many areas of ongoing research that focus on understanding allergies and allergic reactions. Please check with your doctor about new research findings that may help your child.