The only way to avoid an allergic reaction is to avoid the foods that cause signs and symptoms. However, despite your best efforts, you may come into contact with a food that causes a reaction.
For a minor allergic reaction, over-the-counter or prescribed antihistamines may help reduce symptoms. These drugs can be taken after exposure to an allergy-causing food to help relieve itching or hives. However, antihistamines can't treat a severe allergic reaction.
For a severe allergic reaction, you may need an emergency injection of epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room. Many people with allergies carry an epinephrine autoinjector (Adrenaclick, EpiPen). This device is a combined syringe and concealed needle that injects a single dose of medication when pressed against your thigh.
If your doctor has prescribed an epinephrine autoinjector:
- Be sure you know how to use the autoinjector. Also, make sure the people closest to you know how to administer the drug — if they're with you in an anaphylactic emergency, they could save your life.
- Carry it with you at all times. It may be a good idea to keep an extra autoinjector in your car or in your desk at work.
- Always be sure to replace epinephrine before its expiration date or it may not work properly.
While there's ongoing research to find better treatments to reduce food allergy symptoms and prevent allergy attacks, there isn't any proven treatment that can prevent or completely relieve symptoms.
Treatments being studied are:
Anti-IgE therapy. The medication omalizumab (Xolair) interferes with the body's ability to use IgE. The drug is currently being studied for treatment of allergic asthma and food allergies.
This treatment is still considered experimental, and more research needs to be done on the drug's long-term safety. It has been associated with a potential increased risk of anaphylaxis.
Oral immunotherapy. Researchers have been studying the use of oral immunotherapy as a treatment for food allergy. Small doses of the food you're allergic to are swallowed or placed under your tongue (sublingual). The dose of the allergy-provoking food is gradually increased.
Initial results look promising, even in people with peanut, egg and milk allergies. But more research needs to be done to ensure that this treatment is safe.
Early exposure. In the past, it's been generally recommended that children avoid allergenic foods to reduce the likelihood of developing allergies. But in a recent study, high-risk infants — such as those with atopic dermatitis or egg allergy or both — were selected to either ingest or avoid peanut products from 4 to 11 months of age until 5 years of age.
Researchers found that high-risk children who regularly consumed peanut protein, such as peanut butter or peanut-flavored snacks, were 70 to 86 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy. These findings may impact food allergy guidelines in the future.
Research on alternative food allergy treatments is limited. However, many people do try them and claim that certain treatments help.
Acupuncture point injection therapy has been found to be beneficial for the treatment of hives, although more research is needed to confirm these findings. If you decide to try one of these treatments, be sure you work with an experienced and certified provider.