WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A food allergy is when your immune system reacts to a food. A food allergen is an ingredient or chemical in a food that causes your immune system to react. Allergic reactions are when your immune system fights too strongly against an allergen and causes you to get sick. Allergic reactions can happen within minutes to several hours after you eat, touch, or smell a food you are allergic to. Reactions can range from mild to life-threatening.
Ask your primary healthcare provider about these and other medicines you may need to treat a food allergy:
- Antihistamines: This medicine treats itching and rashes caused by food allergies.
- Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.
- Short-acting bronchodilators: You may need short-acting bronchodilators to help open your airways quickly. These medicines may be called rescue inhalers or relievers. They relieve sudden, severe symptoms and start to work right away.
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Your caregiver will give you an anaphylaxis kit and a written plan that tells you what to do. The kit contains medicine called epinephrine that helps stop the reaction.
- Give a shot of epinephrine immediately and call 911: Do not try to drive yourself to a hospital. Give the shot into a muscle, such as the thigh. Your caregiver can show you how to give the shot.
- Keep 2 shots of epinephrine with you at all times: You may need a second shot, because the emergency medicine only works for about 20 minutes and symptoms may return.
Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or specialist as directed:
You may need to see specialists for ongoing care. Write down any questions you have so you remember to ask them during your follow-up visits.
- Avoid allergy causing foods: Do not eat the food that causes your allergy. Your caregiver or a dietician can help you plan a balanced diet. Babies may need to drink a formula that does not have milk or soy in it .
- Wear medical alert identification: Carry a card or wear jewelry that says you have an anaphylaxis kit for allergies. Medical alert identification tells people how to help if you have a reaction.
- Tell people about the allergy: Give copies of your emergency plan to family members, work, daycare providers, or school staff. Show them how to use an anaphylaxis kit.
- Recognize foods you are allergic to: A dietician can teach you how to read labels for ingredients that cause your allergies.
- Ask about ingredients in foods prepared outside your home: When you eat out, ask what is in the food you want to order. Ask how food is prepared. Fried foods can contain small amounts of food allergens, such as nuts and shellfish.
- Use good hygiene: Do not share utensils or food. Wash hands before and after meals.
Contact your primary healthcare provider if:
- You have new or worsening rashes, hives, or itching.
- You have an upset stomach or are vomiting.
- You have stomach cramps or diarrhea.
- You have questions about your treatment, medicine, or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- Your mouth, tongue, or throat swells.
- You have itching or hives that spread all over your body.
- You have chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
- You are dizzy and your heart is beating faster than usual.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.