Peanut allergies affect more adults in the U.S. than children, study finds

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Experts hope that this report will lead to more allergy treatments specifically designed for adults

When thinking about peanut allergies, many consumers’ minds immediately go to kids. However, a new study conducted by researchers from Northwestern University has found that this widespread food allergy may be more prevalent among adults.  

According to the researchers, more adults in the U.S. are affected by peanut allergies than kids, and many of these allergies don’t begin to pop up until adulthood. 

“Currently, the sole FDA-approved peanut allergy therapy -- Palforzia -- is only indicated for pediatric patients,” said researcher Dr. Ruchi Gupta. “Given the high prevalence of peanut allergy among U.S. adults, additional therapies are needed to help address this growing burden of disease.” 

Allergy trends across the U.S. 

The researchers surveyed more than 40,000 adults across the country to determine how common peanut allergies are in adulthood. The participants answered questions about diagnosed allergies, symptoms they experience during allergic reactions, and how they typically handled allergic reactions, among other topics. 

The study revealed that peanut allergies during adulthood are much more common than many people may have realized. While just about three percent of the participants reported a diagnosed peanut allergy, nearly 17 percent of that group hadn’t developed their allergies until they were 18 or older. 

“Unlike allergies such as milk or eggs, which often develop early in life and are outgrown by adolescence, peanut allergy appears to affect children and adults to a similar degree,” said researcher Christopher Warren. “Our study shows many adults are not outgrowing their childhood peanut allergies, and many adults are developing peanut allergies for the first time.” 

Finding treatments for adults

One of the more concerning takeaways from this study is that many of the participants that had reported suspected peanut allergies have never had their symptoms confirmed by a health care professional, and they also don’t have a go-to treatment for their allergy symptoms. Many patients are prescribed EpiPens for severe allergies; however, this wasn’t the case for many of the participants in this study.  

“Worryingly, despite similar rates of severe reactions and annual food allergy-related emergency room visits, patients with adult-onset peanut allergy were less likely to report a physician-diagnosis as well as current epinephrine prescription,” Warren said. 

To ensure that symptoms can be managed at home and that consumers aren’t accidentally exposed to something that can spark a reaction, the researchers encourage anyone with a suspected food allergy to consult with their doctors. Taking this simple step can give peace of mind and provide consumers with better protection against any potential allergens. 

“Clinical information of suspected food allergies, no matter when their reported onset is, is critical to reduce the risk of unnecessary allergen exposure as well as to ensure patients receive essential counseling and prescription of emergency epinephrine,” said researcher Dr. Dawn Lei. 

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