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Food Allergies - Treatment Overview

The best treatment for food allergies is to avoid the food that causes the allergy. When that isn't possible, you can use medicines such as antihistamines for mild reactions and epinephrine for serious reactions. Talk to your doctor about an Anaphylaxis Action Plan.

Start by telling your family, friends, and coworkers that you have a food allergy, and ask them to help you avoid the food. Read all food labels, and learn the other names that may be used for food allergens.

If your baby has a milk or soy allergy, your doctor may suggest either that you change the formula or that you feed your baby only breast milk. Specially prepared formulas are available for infants who have soy and milk allergies.

If you have a severe allergic reaction, your first treatment may be done in an emergency room or by emergency personnel. You will be given a shot of epinephrine to stop the further release of histamine and to relax the muscles that help you breathe.

How to treat a reaction

If your doctor has prescribed epinephrine, always keep it with you. It's important to give the epinephrine shot right away. Your doctor or pharmacist will teach you how to give yourself a shot if you need it. Be sure to check the expiration dates on the medicines, and replace the medicines as needed.

For step-by-step instructions on how to give the shot, see:

actionset.gif Allergies: Giving Yourself an Epinephrine Shot.
actionset.gif Allergies in Children: Giving an Epinephrine Shot to a Child.

You should also wear a medical alert bracelet or other jewelry that lists your food allergies. You can order medical alert jewelry through most drugstores or on the Internet.

Research for new treatments

Food oral immunotherapy (OIT) is being studied as a way to help treat food allergies. Under close supervision, a person takes in small daily doses of a food allergen by mouth or under the tongue. The goal is to try to make the immune system tolerate the allergen so that the body won't react as badly to it. This is called desensitization. Talk to your doctor if you want to know more about clinical trials for this and other new treatments being studied.

Children and food allergies

It's important to take special care with children who have food allergies. A child with severe food allergies may have a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction to even a tiny amount of a food allergen. Your child should always wear a medical alert bracelet. Talk to your doctor about an Anaphylaxis Action Plan.

Make sure that all caregivers (school administrators, teachers, friends, coaches, and babysitters):

  • Know about your child's food allergy.
  • Can recognize the symptoms of a food allergy.
  • Know where the epinephrine shot is kept and how to use it.
  • Know to call 911 immediately.

Children may have only mild symptoms in the first few minutes after they eat the food allergen, but they may have severe symptoms in 10 to 60 minutes. Children always should be observed in a hospital for several hours after a reaction.

Make sure that your child:

  • Always wears a medical alert bracelet camera.gif.
  • Always carries epinephrine. Children at risk of severe allergic reactions should keep their epinephrine at school or day care and at home. Older, mature children should be taught to give themselves the shot.

Although your child needs to avoid certain foods, he or she still needs to eat healthy foods. A dietitian can tell you which foods are important for your child's health.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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