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The Smell of Peanut Butter

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Staff Training: Food Allergies & Anaphylaxis in School – What School Staff Need to KnowStaff Training: Food Allergies & Anaphylaxis in School – What School Staff Need to Know

This 30 minute module is designed to assist the school nurse in staff training of management of life-threatening allergic reactions and increase food allergy awareness for all school staff including teachers, food service personnel, administrators, aides, specialists, coaches, bus drivers, custodians and others.


“The smell of peanut butter will cause an allergic reaction in someone with a peanut allergy.”



The smell of peanut butter is caused by pyrizines, which are not proteins. In most cases it is the proteins that trigger allergic reactions.



In a small study conducted on children with peanut allergy, peanut butter was held one foot from the noses of the subjects for ten minutes. None of the children experienced an allergic reaction. The smell that we perceive when someone is eating a peanut product is caused by a volatile organic compound, not a protein.  Proteins are the most common cause of allergic reactions.

Although the above information  is reassuring, respiratory exposure to food allergens can cause allergic reactions.  There have been deaths associated with the inhalation of actively cooked foods.  Take caution with flours, powders and other small particles of food that can go up in the air.



Food Allergen Exposure in the School Setting: A handy reference table that reviews evidence, challenges, and interventions for exposure to food allergens.


Simonte, S.J. et al. “Relevance of casual contact with peanut butter in children with peanut allergy.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 112.1 (2003): 180-182.

Roberts, G., Golder, N. and Lack, G. “Bronchial challenges with aerosolized food in asthmatic, food-allergic children.” Allergy 57.8 (2002): 713-7.

Brough H.A. et al. “Distribution of peanut protein in the home environment.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 132.3(2013): 623-9.



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