Treatment for Food Allergies

Treatment for food allergies requires avoiding the food that causes the allergic reaction. Allergy awareness is necessary for people who have food allergies, as well as for anyone who produces, supplies, or prepares foods. Parents and caregivers of children who have food allergies must be consistently careful about what their child eats. People with food allergies should consider wearing a bracelet or necklace to alert others (including emergency medical personnel) about their condition.

Patient education is an important aspect of food allergy treatment. People who have food allergies must read food labels carefully and learn to identify alternate names for the particular food to which they are allergic. For example, milk or milk products may be listed as lactalbumin, lactoglobulin, casein, or lactose (milk sugar); eggs may be listed as albumin; and peanuts may be listed as vegetable protein. Even products that are labeled "nondairy" may contain milk byproducts. They also must be aware of the cross-reactivity (i.e., an allergic reaction caused by a substance that is related to an allergen). Eating away from home (e.g., in a restaurant) is especially challenging for many people who have food allergies.

It is important for people with food allergies to work closely with their allergist/immunologist to develop a treatment plan in case of allergen exposure. Patients should have access to clearly-defined instructions outlining what to do if an allergic reaction occurs at all times.

Mild allergic reactions to food may be treated using oral antihistamines (e.g., Benadryl). These medications are available over-the-counter or by prescription. Patients should be sure to follow their physician’s instructions regarding the use of antihistamines.

Severe allergic reactions require a shot of epinephrine (adrenaline). This medication, which requires a prescription, is available in an easy-to-use device (e.g., EpiPen). Anyone who has a severe food allergy should have access to this medication at all times. If a person experiences a severe allergic reaction, call 911 immediately.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 20 Oct 2008

Last Modified: 23 Dec 2014