How common is peanut allergy?
Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in childhood. Around 3 in 100 children in Australia have a peanut allergy. Even very tiny amounts of peanut (touched, breathed in or eaten) can cause a life-threatening reaction (anaphylaxis) in some people. Read the Food allergy fact sheet for information on signs of food allergy.
If your baby or young child has any signs of an allergic reaction to a food, stop them from eating the food and seek medical help. See a doctor as soon as possible for a medical assessment and diagnosis before permanently removing any food from your child’s diet.
What if my child has a peanut allergy?
Around 20% of children who have a peanut allergy will grow out of it over time. However, around 20% of cases can also worsen. An allergy specialist will do an allergy assessment and tests to know if your child is allergic to peanut and other foods. They will advise you about how to manage the allergy—this will most likely include avoiding all foods with any amount of peanut or that have been in contact with peanut. Talk to your allergy specialist or doctor about having an adrenaline action plan (EpiPen) in case of an emergency.
What about other types of nuts?
Being allergic to peanuts does not always mean your child will have a reaction to tree nuts. Your allergy specialist will do tests and advise you on the best way to manage your child’s allergy. Often, tree nuts may have been in contact with peanuts so it may be safest to avoid all nut products. Remember that nut butters may be made on equipment used to make peanut butter and may not be a safer option.
Read food labels
The best way to avoid a life-threatening reaction is to avoid any foods that may contain peanuts. In Australia, it is the law that products containing peanut must clearly list them on the ingredient label no matter how small the amount.
Ingredients to avoid
- Beer nuts
- Cold-pressed peanut oil
- Expelled/extruded peanut oil
- Crushed nuts
- Ground/earth nuts
- Mixed nuts
- Nuts/flavoured nuts
- Peanut butter/paste
- Peanut flour
- Peanut soap
- Peanut sauce
- Peanut syrup
- Peanut flakes
Foods that may contain peanuts
Peanut may be an ingredient in many products. Even if a product does not contain peanut as an ingredient it may have been in contact with peanuts when it was being made. These foods may be at high risk of containing peanuts or contamination from peanuts:
- hydrolysed or textured vegetable protein
- pie/cheesecake crusts
- sauces and dressings
- potato crisps and snack biscuits
- fried food
- cereal and cereal bars
- baked goods
- Asian products.
Buying food out or eating at a friend’s house can be a high-risk time for exposure to peanut. It is best to avoid eating food made by others, if possible. Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of exposure to peanut if your child or your family eat away from home:
- Prepare and pack food from home for your child and family, if possible.
- Contact your friend or the restaurant before going. Let them know your child has a food allergy. Work out if there will be options suitable for your child.
- You may be more comfortable going to a place your child has eaten at before.
- Avoid relying on menu descriptions. You can ask to talk to the manager about what foods your child needs to avoid (even if you have eaten there before). Ask them to let the chef know and find out if there is risk of contamination from other meals.
- Always carry your child’s EpiPen if they have been prescribed one.
Remember, you can never be 100% sure that a meal prepared by someone else will not contain traces of peanuts.
Here are some common high-risk situations to be careful of:
- traces of peanut butter on food surfaces, utensils, door handles, taps, desks, play equipment and toys
- accidental exposure to peanut at a restaurant. Dishes may be described with foreign names and short ingredient lists on the menu. Nut products may be hidden or unlisted ingredients. Always talk to someone at the restaurant to find out more
- cross-contamination in packaged food products (e.g. a peanut-free product that is made in the same factory as a peanut product).
Labelling will often declare may contain peanuts (however, this is a voluntary statement and not the law).
You may find these tips useful to reduce the risk of your child being accidentally exposed to peanut:
- Always read food labels, no matter how familiar you are with the peanut-free diet. Food manufacturers can change ingredients at any time.
- It is unsafe to ‘pick out’ nuts and eat a meal that was prepared with nuts.
- Many brands of sunflower seeds are produced on equipment shared with peanuts.
- Explain to your child why they should avoid eating foods from others lunch boxes.
- Avoid foods that have touched peanuts or any utensil used to make peanut containing dishes.
- Remember that peanuts or peanut powder, butter or oil may be used in many dishes. Always ask for more information about a dish if you did not make it yourself.
- Be extra careful when at social functions or dining out. Asian, Chinese, Thai, Mediterranean and Indian restaurants use many different forms of peanuts in their dishes.
- Try sending peanut-free treats with your child to school or parties to share with the other children.
- Never assume a meal is peanut-free because the menu does not mention peanuts. You can always ask to talk to a manager for more information.
- If you are travelling, notify airlines of the allergy. It is a good idea to keep peanut-free snacks on hand.
- Notify your child’s school or child care centre of their allergy, including a plan in case of emergency.
Help and assistance
- If you are experiencing a severe allergic reaction, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.
- If you have any other symptoms of an allergic reaction or concerns about allergies, contact one of our registered nurses by phoning 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).
- For more information about peanut-free diet or managing your child’s peanut allergy, talk to your allergy specialist, doctor or dietitian.
Resources for parents, families and carers
Peanut, tree nut and seed allergy, The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy
Fact sheet: Food allergy, The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy
Food allergy overview, The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy
This fact sheet draws on information from:
- Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, Peanut.
- Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, Peanut, tree nut and seed allergy.
- Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service 2015, Child health information: Your guide to the first 12 months.
This fact sheet is also the result of input and effort from many health professionals in Queensland. Their assistance with the content is greatly appreciated.
This information is provided as general information only and should not be relied upon as professional or medical advice. Professional and medical advice should be sought for particular health concerns or events. Best efforts have been used to develop this information, which is considered correct and current in accordance with accepted best practice in Queensland as at the date of production. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not accept liability to any person for the information provided in this fact sheet nor does it warrant that the information will remain correct and current. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not promote, endorse or create any association with any third party by publication or use of any references or terminology in this fact sheet.