Mar 23, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Asthmatics May Be Confusing Peanut Allergy Symptoms for Asthma

May 18, 2015 03:18 PM EDT

A new study has suggested that children with asthma may not even realize they are allergic to peanuts, because the symptoms are so similar.

Scientists who carried out the study in the United States said symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing are seen in both asthma and peanut allergic reactions. 

For the study, they analyzed the records of more than 1,500 children from the pediatric respiratory clinic at Mercy Children's Hospital in Toledo, OH.  They found that one in ten tested positive to peanut sensitivity.  However, 53 percent of these children and their families were not aware and did not even suspect that they had a sensitivity to peanuts.  The study also found that the prevalence of known peanut allergy was similar across age groups.

"Many of the respiratory symptoms of peanut allergy can mirror those of an asthma attack, and vice versa. Examples of those symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing," lead author of the new study presented this week, Robert Cohn says.  "This study aimed to evaluate the proportion of asthmatic children who also demonstrated a sensitivity to peanuts."

 "This study demonstrates children with asthma might benefit from a test for peanut sensitivity, especially when control of wheezing and coughing is difficult to achieve. If a physician is having this problem, or if a parent notices it in his or her asthmatic child, they should consider testing, even if they believe their child is not sensitive to peanuts. There should be continued investigation to learn more about the connection between asthmatic children and peanut sensitivity."

Dr. Samantha Walker, a specialist at Asthma UK, said that these findings are difficult to determine, mainly because allergy tests are known to be very unreliable.  In the United Kingdom, one in 11 people are asthmatic with 11 million children suffering from asthma.  The illness is very complex and still somewhat of a mystery to experts, she said.

According to Dr. Walker, many patients that have been diagnosed with a peanut allergy can eat peanuts without any health complications, which is why many children tested did not know they were allergic to peanuts.

Young patients who suffer from both asthma and food allergies are at an increased risk of having a severe asthma attack. That is why these children should be kept under strict observation in order to avoid any serious asthma attacks. 

The findings for the study were presented during the 2015 American Thoracic Society International Conference held in Denver, CO.

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