How Are Food Allergies Treated?

What Is The Treatment For Food Allergies?

Routine Treatment

The best treatment for a food allergy is to avoid the offending food. Food allergies can only be treated at present by strict food avoidance - and strict means strict here. Once mild symptoms set in, there is little you can do but wait for it to pass. The first allergic reaction to food you ever experience may be very mild - perhaps no more than tingling or itching of the mouth. Stay near a phone for an hour or so in case you need to call for medical help. Often the symptoms just wear off, and that's it. In this case, keep well away from the food and see your doctor soon. If symptoms worsen, and if they affect the body as a whole (for example, widespread nettle rash) or if your breathing is affected, then you need emergency medical help.

If you have had a severe allergic reaction before, extra caution is necessary. For a few very sensitive individuals with food allergy, even inhaling airborne molecules of the food is sufficient to spark a reaction. Someone opening a jar of peanut butter or a packet of peanuts nearby, can do it for those with a peanut allergy. So can the smell in a fish market, or the cooking fumes from fish or vegetables for those with the appropriate sensitivity. This can be alarming, but be reassured by the fact that fatal reactions have hardly ever been recorded from airborne food.

If you have ever suffered a systemic reaction (anaphylaxis - life threatening reaction), you should be carrying injectable adrenaline (epinephrine) for emergency use when the offending food is eaten by mistake. Injectable adrenaline (an EpiPen or Anapen) - requires removing the cap and jabbing firmly into the outer thigh (even if that means going through clothing). Some will also have an injectable inhaler which can be used to treat symptoms of the mouth, throat and breathing. Anyone whose reactions tend to be severe should use the injector first and follow up with the inhaler if necesssary.

Emergency Help

If someone suffers anaphylactic shock, this is a serious medical emergency. See What are the symptoms of a food allergy? for signs of anaphylaxis. Remember that emergency hospital treatment is still vital, even if injectable adrenaline (epinephrine) has been given.

Just occasionally, a severe allergic reaction to food can appear to be over, but the symptoms then recur between 4 and 8 hours later. So you should be kept in hospital for several hours just in case: there have been a few deaths as a result of people being sent home prematurely.

• Got another question? See: Allergy Questions

What is a food allergy? Understanding the basics. 
How are food allergies diagnosed? Testing for food allergies.
What foods cause allergies? List of most popular allergens.
Can allergies kill you? When a food allergy can be lethal.
Are allergies becoming more common? Or is it just being reported more?
Do allergies run in families? The connection with DNA.

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