Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

There's no definitive treatment for peanut allergy, but researchers continue to study desensitization. Oral immunotherapy (desensitization) involves giving children with peanut allergies, or those at risk for peanut allergies, increasing doses of food containing peanuts over time. However, the long-term safety of oral immunotherapy for peanut allergy is still uncertain, and this treatment is not yet FDA approved.

New research suggests that desensitizing at-risk children to peanuts between ages 4 and 11 months may be effective at preventing peanut allergy. Check with your doctor because there are significant risks of anaphylaxis if early introduction of peanuts is performed incorrectly.

In the meantime, as with any food allergy, treatment involves taking steps to avoid the foods that cause your reaction and knowing how to spot and respond to a severe reaction.

Being prepared for a reaction

The only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid peanuts and peanut products altogether. But peanuts are common, and despite your best efforts, you're likely to come into contact with peanuts at some point.

For a severe allergic reaction, you may need an emergency injection of epinephrine and to visit the emergency room. Many people with allergies carry an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, Twinject). This device is a syringe and concealed needle that injects a single dose of medication when pressed against your thigh.

Know how to use your autoinjector

If your doctor has prescribed an epinephrine autoinjector:

  • Carry it with you at all times. It may be a good idea to keep an extra autoinjector in your car and in your desk at work.
  • Always replace it before its expiration date. Out-of-date epinephrine may not work properly.
  • Ask your doctor to prescribe a backup autoinjector. If you misplace one, you'll have a spare.
  • Know how to operate it. Ask your doctor to show you. Also, make sure the people closest to you know how to use it — if someone with you can give you a shot, he or she could save your life.
  • Know when to use it. Talk to your doctor about how to recognize when you need a shot. However, if you're not sure whether you need a shot, it's usually better to go ahead and use the emergency epinephrine.
June 11, 2015