New Research Shows More Adults Developing Peanut Allergies

Peanut allergies are typically considered a problem for children, but new research shows that many adults are now developing the potentially life-threatening allergy; Nancy Chen reports for CBS2.

Video Transcript

KRISTINE JOHNSON: Peanut allergies are typically considered a problem for children.

MAURICE DUBOIS: But new research shows that many adults are now developing this potentially life-threatening allergy. CBS2's Nancy Chen has more.

NANCY CHEN: Peanut butter was Shandee Chernow's go-to snack until she was 32 years old.

SHANDEE CHERNOW: I opened the jar of peanut butter and instantly my lungs changed. I all of a sudden wasn't able to breathe.

NANCY CHEN: She became allergic to peanuts as an adult. A new study from Northwestern Medicine shows at least 4.5 million adults suffer from peanut allergies, with one in six developing the serious allergy after turning 18.

RUCHI GUPTA: This was actually really surprising for us, that adults are developing more food allergies.

NANCY CHEN: Study author Dr. Ruchi Gupta says it could have to do with microorganisms that make up the microbiome of the gut, as well as infections that alter the immune system and hormonal changes.

RUCHI GUPTA: Why is the biggest question that all of us researchers across the world are asking? We do not have a clear answer. How do we better understand this? How do we help adults with food allergies?

NANCY CHEN: The study finds only 60% of adults who develop a peanut allergy are properly diagnosed. And patients who develop the allergy when they're older are also less likely to carry an EpiPen.

RUCHI GUPTA: It's really, really important to know what to do in case of an allergic reaction and be able to know how to manage it.

NANCY CHEN: Shandy wants other allergic adults to know they're not alone.

SHANDEE CHERNOW: It's consuming. And it can be really intimidating, particularly at the beginning. I would like people to know that it's not a choice. We have to live with this and it really is a life-threatening condition.

NANCY CHEN: She's also allergic to tree nuts, shellfish, and pork-- all allergies that came on when she was an adult.

Nancy Chen, CBS News, New York.

MAURICE DUBOIS: And currently there are no FDA-approved treatments for people who develop peanut allergies as adults, but Dr. Gupta says some are currently being studied.