The best treatment for food allergies is to avoid the food that causes the allergy. When that is not possible, you can use medicines such as antihistamines for mild reactions and the medicines in an allergy kit for serious reactions.
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 and carry an allergy kit. 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 allergy kit is kept and how to give the epinephrine shot.
- 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.
Initial treatment for a food allergy consists of identifying the food that causes the allergy and learning how to deal with both mild and serious reactions.
The most effective treatment for food allergies is to avoid the food in any form. Tell 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. For example, milk may be listed as “caseinate,” eggs as “albumin,” wheat as “gluten,” and peanuts as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein.”
If your baby has a milk or soy allergy, your doctor may suggest either changing the formula or breast-feeding exclusively. Specially prepared formulas are available for infants who have soy and milk allergies.
If you or your child has mild allergies, nonprescription antihistamines may control the symptoms. You may need prescription antihistamines if nonprescription antihistamines don’t help or if they cause bothersome side effects, such as drowsiness.
If you have a severe allergic reaction, your initial 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. You will then be prescribed an allergy kit that contains a syringe of epinephrine and antihistamine tablets.
Your doctor or pharmacist will teach you how to give yourself a shot. You will always need to have an allergy kit with you. You should also wear a medical alert bracelet or other jewelry that lists your food allergies. You can order medical alert jewelry through most pharmacies or on the Internet.