When Your Child Has a Food Allergy: Peanut

Foods containing peanuts.

When a child has a peanut allergy, the slightest contact with peanuts can cause a life-threatening reaction. For that reason, your child must stay away from peanuts and anything that contains them. Some children also need to stay away from tree nuts such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts. This sheet tells you more about your child’s peanut allergy. You’ll learn what foods your child should stay away from, what to look for on food labels, and how to prevent cross contact. Cross contact means that peanuts accidentally come in contact with foods your child can safely eat.

Peanut allergy: foods to stay away from

Peanuts can turn up in foods you’d never expect. They also may come in contact with food that is otherwise safe to eat. For that reason, it’s best to stay away from all of the following:

  • African, Chinese, Indian, Thai, or Vietnamese cuisine. These often contain peanuts or have been in contact with peanuts.

  • Bakery cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, and sweet rolls. Even if they don’t contain peanuts, they may have had contact with peanuts.

  • Prepared chili and pasta sauce. These may use peanut butter or peanut flour as thickener.

  • Chocolate candies, which often are in contact with peanuts. For more information, call the food maker’s toll-free number listed on the package.

  • Crushed nuts in sauces or sprinkled on salads and other foods

  • Granola and energy bars. These may contain peanuts, peanut flour, or peanut oil.

  • Ice cream and frozen yogurt. These may have had contact with peanuts.

  • Mixed nuts, artificial nuts, and nut pieces

  • Eggrolls

  • Mexican dishes

  • Chili, spaghetti sauce

  • Mole sauce

  • Muesli, granola, and other fruit-and-nut breakfast cereals

  • Peanut butter and peanut flour

  • Pesto. This is an Italian sauce that usually contains nuts.

  • Praline, marzipan, and nougat

  • Some prepared salad dressings

  • Sunflower seeds. These are often processed on the same equipment as peanuts.

  • Worcestershire sauce and bouillon

What to look for on labels

Peanut allergies are very serious, so read labels carefully. Look for:

  • Expeller-pressed or cold-pressed peanut oil. Refined peanut oil may be safe—ask your child’s allergy specialist.

  • Arachis and arachis oil. These are other terms for peanuts and peanut oil.

  • Groundnuts. This is another term for peanuts.

  • Mandelonas. These are peanuts soaked in almond flavoring.

  • Food additive 322 or lecithin

  • The words “emulsified” or “satay.” Peanuts may be used as a thickener.

  • Nu-Nuts artificial nuts. These are peanuts flavored to taste like other nuts, such as walnuts and pecans.

  • Hydrolyzed plant protein and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. These are usually made from soy, but sometimes from peanuts.

  • Natural and artificial flavoring from unknown sources, especially in barbecue sauces, cereals, and ice cream

Preventing accidental exposure to peanuts

Food exposure

  • Take special care in Asian or buffet restaurants, bakeries, and ice cream parlors where cross contact is likely.

  • Don't serve baked goods you don’t make yourself.

  • Use a “chef card” in restaurants. This special card explains your child’s allergy to restaurant workers. You can make your own card or print one from a website on the Internet.

  • When eating out, order simple food, not complex dishes. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side.

  • Don't order fried foods, which may be cooked in peanut oil.

  • Pack your child’s lunch and explain why it’s best not to trade food.

  • Make your own snacks and desserts for parties and outings.

  • Talk to adults who spend time with your child—caregivers, teachers, and other parents. Ask them not to serve foods made with peanuts or other nuts.

  • If you’re unsure whether a food is peanut-free, check the food maker’s website or call the toll-free number on the package.

Household exposure

Some children are more sensitive to peanuts than others. Certain children may react only to peanuts they eat. Other children can become very sick just from touching a peanut, inhaling its dust, or being around someone eating peanuts. For that reason, make your home a peanut-free zone. Don’t bring peanuts, peanut butter, or foods that contain peanuts into the house. Keep in mind that peanuts are sometimes found in unexpected places, such as:

  • Ant traps and mouse traps

  • Bird food, dogfood, hamster food, and livestock feed

  • Some skin creams, shampoos, and hair care products

  • Hacky Sacks and beanbags, which may be filled with crushed nut shells


If your child has ANY of the symptoms listed below, act quickly!

If one has been prescribed, use an epinephrine autoinjector right away. Then call 911 or emergency services.

  • Trouble breathing or cough that won’t stop

  • Swelling of the mouth or face

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Vomiting or severe diarrhea

There are many areas of ongoing research that focus on understanding allergies and allergic reactions. Please check with your child's healthcare provider about new research findings that may help your child.