How to Treat an Allergic Reaction

Avoid triggers! If you know you have an allergic reaction to peanuts, for example, do not eat them and go out of your way to avoid foods prepared with or around peanuts (see Food Allergy).

Self-care at home is not enough in severe reactions. A severe reaction is a medical emergency.

  • Do not attempt to treat or “wait out” severe reactions at home. Go immediately to a hospital emergency department.
  • If no one is available to drive you right away, call an ambulance for emergency medical transport.
  • Use your epinephrine auto-injector if you have been prescribed one by your doctor due to previous allergic reactions (see “prevention” below).

Slight reactions with mild symptoms usually respond to nonprescription allergy medications.

  • An oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Caution: These may make you too drowsy to drive or operate machinery safely. They can affect concentration and interfere with children’s learning in school. These medications should be taken for only a few days.
  • For rashes, an antiinflammatory steroid cream such as hydrocortisone can be used.

For small, localized skin reactions, try cold, wet cloths or ice. Try applying a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel as an ice pack.