Food Allergy

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideThe Most Common Food Allergies for Kids and Adults

The Most Common Food Allergies for Kids and Adults

What is the treatment for a food allergy?

Dietary avoidance: Avoiding the offending allergen in the diet is the primary treatment of food allergy. Once a food to which the patient is sensitive has been identified, the food must be removed from the diet. To do this, affected people need to read lengthy, detailed lists of ingredients on the label for each food they consider eating. Many allergy-producing foods such as peanuts, eggs, and milk appear in foods that are not ordinarily associated with them. For example, peanuts often are used as protein supplements, eggs are found in some salad dressings, and milk is in bakery products. The FDA requires that the ingredients in a food be listed on its label, and this label is a critical resource for anyone with food allergies. People can avoid most of the foods to which they are sensitive if they carefully read the labels on foods and, when in restaurants, avoid ordering foods that might contain ingredients to which they are allergic.

Treating an anaphylactic reaction: People with severe food allergies must be prepared to treat an anaphylactic reaction. Education about the signs of a reaction and how to manage the reaction is essential. Even those who know a lot about their own allergies can either make an error or be served food that does not comply with their instructions. To protect themselves, people who have had anaphylactic reactions to a food should wear medical alert bracelets or necklaces stating that they have a food allergy and that they are subject to severe reactions. These individuals also always should carry a syringe of adrenaline (epinephrine [EpiPen, Auvi-Q]), obtained by prescription from their doctors; people with severe food allergies should be prepared to self-administer epinephrine if they think they are developing an allergic reaction. They then should immediately seek medical help by either calling the rescue squad or having themselves transported to an emergency room.

Treating other symptoms of food allergy: Several medications are available for treating the other symptoms of food allergy. For example, antihistamines can relieve gastrointestinal symptoms, hives, sneezing, and a runny nose. Bronchodilators can relieve the symptoms of asthma. These medications are taken after a person inadvertently has ingested a food to which he is allergic. They are not effective, however, in preventing an allergic reaction when taken prior to eating the food. In fact, no medication in any form is available to reliably prevent an allergic reaction to a certain food before eating that food.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/24/2017

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