Food allergy is treated by avoiding the foods that trigger the reaction. Once you and your healthcare provider have identified the food(s) to which you are sensitive, you must remove them from your diet. To do this, you must read the detailed ingredient lists on each food you are considering eating.
Many allergy-producing foods such as peanuts, eggs, and milk, appear in foods one normally would not associate them with. Peanuts, for example, may be used as a protein source, and eggs are used in some salad dressings.
Because of a new law in the United States, FDA now requires ingredients in a packaged food to appear on its label. You can avoid most of the things to which you are sensitive if you read food labels carefully and avoid restaurant-prepared foods that might have ingredients to which you are allergic.
If you are highly allergic, even the tiniest amounts of a food allergen (for example, a small portion of a peanut kernel) can prompt an allergic reaction.
If you have food allergies, you must be prepared to treat unintentional exposure. Even people who know a lot about what they are sensitive to occasionally make a mistake. To protect yourself if you have had allergic reactions to a food, you should
- Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace stating that you have a food allergy and are subject to severe reactions
- Carry an auto-injector device containing epinephrine (adrenaline), such as an epipen or twinject, that you can get by prescription and give to yourself if you think you are getting a food allergic reaction
- Seek medical help immediately, even if you have already given yourself epinephrine, by either calling the rescue squad or by getting transported to an emergency room
Anaphylactic allergic reactions can be fatal even when they start off with mild symptoms such as a tingling in the mouth and throat or GI discomfort.
Exercise-Induced Food Allergy
At least one situation may require more than simply eating food with allergens to start a reaction: exercise-induced food allergy. People who have this reaction only experience it after eating a specific food before exercising. Some people get this reaction from many foods, and others get it only after eating a specific food. As exercise increases and body temperature rises, itching and light-headedness start and allergic reactions such as hives may appear and even anaphylaxis may develop.
The management of exercised-induced food allergy is simple—avoid eating for a couple of hours before exercising.
Schools and daycare centers must have plans in place to address any food allergy emergency. Parents and caregivers should take special care with children and learn how to
- Protect children from foods to which they are allergic
- Manage children if they eat a food to which they are allergic
- Give children epinephrine
Simply washing your hands with soap and water will remove peanut allergens. Also, most household cleaners will remove them from surfaces such as food preparation areas at home as well as daycare facilities and schools. These easy-to-do measures will help prevent peanut allergy reactions in children and adults.
There are several medicines you can take to relieve food allergy symptoms that are not part of an anaphylactic reaction. These include
Antihistamines to relieve GI symptoms, hives, or sneezing and a runny nose
Bronchodilators to relieve asthma symptoms
It is not easy to determine if a reaction to food is anaphylactic, however. It is important to develop a plan with a healthcare provider as to what reactions you should treat with epinephrine first, rather than antihistamines or bronchodilators.
Controversial and Unproven Treatments
One controversial treatment, which sometimes may be used with provocative challenge, includes putting a diluted solution of a particular food under your tongue about a half hour before you eat the food suspected of causing an allergic reaction. This is an attempt to “neutralize” the subsequent exposure to the food you believe is harmful. The results of carefully conducted clinical research show this procedure does not prevent an allergic reaction.
Another unproven treatment involves getting allergy shots (immunotherapy) containing small quantities of the food extracts to which you are allergic. These shots are given regularly for a long period of time with the aim of “desensitizing” you to the food allergen. Researchers have not yet proven that allergy shots reliably relieve food allergies.
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