Food allergies are an extremely common affliction in both children or adults. Many allergies are minor, causing digestive troubles, but others can be dangerous or even fatal if not quickly treated. Food allergy treatment varies depending on the type of allergen and the severity of the reaction. While general lifestyle treatment involves simply avoiding potential allergens, it is important to know how to handle an allergic reaction in the case of an accidental exposure.
Just like an allergy to pollen or animal fur, food allergies are caused when the body incorrectly perceives an ingested substance as an attack and releases histamines into the bloodstream to fight off the invader. In most cases, the histamine release will trigger allergy symptoms such as a rash, runny nose, watering eyes, and sneezing. In serious cases, the body can go into a form of system shock called anaphylaxis, which is far more serious and can result in death.
Food allergy treatment generally begins with prevention. Sufferers should check all ingredient lists when possible and be sure to ask about hidden allergens, such as almond extract or coconut oil. They should be careful about allergen-free food that has been packaged or plated with something that will cause an allergic reaction; it is very easy for cross-contamination to occur even under the most hygienic circumstances. It may feel rude to ask if a dish contains something that a person is allergic to, but it's far better than going into anaphylactic shock in the middle of a birthday party.
If a reaction occurs, usually the first step of food allergy treatment is to take an over-the-counter antihistamine. This medicine can stop the histamine reaction and prevent symptoms from worsening. For people with mild to moderate allergies, this type of food allergy treatment may be sufficient to prevent harm and alleviate symptoms.
If a person begins to have trouble breathing or shows signs of swelling, these may be indications of a serious allergic reaction that requires prompt medical attention. People with serious food allergies may carry an injectable dose of a powerful medication called epinephrine which can be used as a food allergy treatment that will stop most serious attacks. If the allergic reaction occurs and the victim does not carry epinephrine, he or she must be taken to a hospital immediately.
There are no reliable food allergy treatments that can cure the allergy itself. Some doctors recommend building up a tolerance through gradually increasing daily doses of the allergen under strict medical supervision, but others warn against this. In some cases, symptoms can actually get worse if this method is applied. Some children with allergies grow out of them as they approach adulthood, although many do not. For adults who suffered childhood allergies, doctors may advise allergy testing to see what, if any, allergies have subsided.