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Food Allergies and Food Intolerance

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Treatment for Food Allergies continued...

Special precautions are warranted with children with food allergies. Parents and caregivers must know how to protect children from foods to which the children are allergic and how to manage the children if they consume a food to which they are allergic, including the administration of epinephrine. Schools must have plans in place to address any emergency.

There are several medications that a patient can take to relieve food allergy symptoms that are not part of an anaphylactic reaction. These include antihistamines to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms, hives, or sneezing and a runny nose. Bronchodilators can relieve bronchospasm or asthma-like symptoms. These medications are taken after people have inadvertently ingested a food to which they are allergic but are not effective in preventing an allergic reaction when taken prior to eating the food. No medication in any form can be taken before eating a certain food that will reliably prevent an allergic reaction to that food.

There are a few non-approved, investigative treatments for food allergies. One involves injections containing small quantities of the food extracts to which the patient is allergic. These shots are given on a regular basis for a long period of time with the aim of "desensitizing" the patient to the food allergen. Researchers have not yet proven that allergy shots relieve food allergies.

Food Allergies in Infants and Children

Milk and soy allergies are particularly common food allergies in infants and young children. These allergies sometimes do not involve hives and asthma, but rather lead to colic, and perhaps blood in the stool or poor growth. Infants and children are thought to be particularly susceptible to this allergic syndrome because of the immaturity of their immune and digestive systems. Milk or soy allergies in infants can develop within days to months of birth. Sometimes there is a family history of allergies or feeding problems. The clinical picture is one of a very unhappy colicky child who may not sleep well at night. The doctor diagnoses the food allergy partly by changing the child's diet. Rarely, a food challenge is used.

If the baby drinks cow's milk, the doctor may suggest a change to soy formula or exclusive breast milk, if possible. If soy formula causes an allergic reaction, the baby may be placed on an elemental formula. These formulas are processed proteins (basically sugars and amino acids). There are few if any allergens within these materials. The doctor will sometimes prescribe corticosteroids to treat infants with severe food allergies. Fortunately, time usually heals this particular gastrointestinal disease. It tends to resolve within the first few years of life.

Exclusive breast feeding (excluding all other foods) of infants for the first four to six months of life, if possible, is recommended for its beneficial effects. There is no conclusive evidence that breast-feeding has a protective role in preventing food allergies later in life. 

While some pregnant women may hope restricting their diets during pregnancy or during breastfeeding may help their children avoid allergies, the experts disagree and don't recommend this.

They don't recommend soy formula as a strategy for preventing the development of allergies, either.

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