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Food Allergy


A food allergy is an immune system reaction to a food. A food allergen is an ingredient or chemical in a food that causes your immune system to react. Allergic reactions happen 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.


Anaphylaxis treatment:

Your healthcare provider 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. Give the shot into a muscle, such as the thigh. Your healthcare provider can show you how to give the shot. Do not try to drive yourself to a hospital.

  • 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.

Call 911 for any of the following signs of anaphylaxis:

  • Swelling in your throat that makes it hard for you to swallow and breathe

  • Wheezing and shortness of breath

  • Chest pain or tightness

  • Dizziness and a very fast heartbeat

Seek immediate care if:

  • Your mouth, tongue, or throat swells.

  • You have itching or hives that spread all over your body.

Contact your 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.


You may need any of the following:

  • Epinephrine is part of your anaphylaxis kit. The kit will contain 2 self-injection pens. Check the expiration date on the kit every month and replace it before it expires.

  • Antihistamines treat 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.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to see specialists for ongoing care. Your healthcare provider may want to test you regularly to see if the food allergy changes. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during follow-up visits.

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.

Prevent an allergic reaction:

  • Do not eat foods that cause an allergic reaction. Even a small taste can cause an allergic reaction. Your healthcare provider or a dietitian can help you plan a balanced diet. Babies may need to drink a formula that does not contain milk or soy.

  • Create an action plan with treatment instructions. Your healthcare provider can help you create a written plan that explains the allergy and an emergency plan that explains how to treat a reaction. Give copies of the action plan and emergency instructions to family members, work, daycare providers, or school staff. Show them how to use an anaphylaxis kit. Update the action plan as the allergy changes.

  • Recognize foods you are allergic to. A dietitian 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 may 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.


Do not get the nasal spray form of the flu vaccine if you have an egg allergy. The nasal spray may contain egg proteins that can cause anaphylaxis. Ask your healthcare provider if the injection form of the vaccine is safe for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.

Learn more about Food Allergy (Discharge Care)