Prevent and treat reactions to food allergies

Food allergies affect a large number of patients. Common allergies include shellfish and peanuts but can be caused by anything from strawberries to milk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of serious allergic reactions in the U.S. are caused by milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts. Symptoms can range from rashes to difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis, which is the full-blown reaction that causes shortness of breath, tongue and throat swelling, and in some cases, death. Knowing your allergies and how to respond to a possible reaction are important to preventing unwanted problems or complications.


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  • know your allergies
  • keep an epinephrine auto-injector (i.e. Epi-pen)
  • have an antihistamine available
  • consider allergy testing

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  • ignore early signs
  • panic
  • forget to let your server know about your allergies
  • keep your friends and family in the dark

Justin C Young‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do know your allergies

You’re responsible for yourself. Know what foods you’re allergic to and where these allergy triggers might show up unexpectedly. Allergens can masquerade in food that appears to be safe; for example, soy may be used in packaged meats or eggs may be added to a product and listed as proteins or emulsifiers. Staying up to date about alternative names and listings for allergens can help you stay healthy.

Do keep an epinephrine auto-injector (i.e. Epi-pen)

Knowing how to properly use an Epi-pen and administering the appropriate dose of epinephrine early in an allergic reaction can prevent worsening symptoms or anaphylaxis. Have one available at all times, and make sure others know where you keep it and how to use it for if you are unable to do so.

Do have an antihistamine available

An antihistamine, like Benadryl, can help suppress symptoms of itching and swelling associated with an allergic reaction. The antihistamine serves as a helpful over-the-counter medication to keep around to prevent reactions.

Do consider allergy testing

Follow up with an allergist or coordinate with your physician to set up allergy testing to identify other potential allergens to which you may be allergic. Emergency situations can arise without notice, so staying medically up to date on your allergy triggers can go a long way to keeping you out of harm’s way.

Justin C Young‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not ignore early signs

Think fast; even the slightest tingle, itchy tongue, dry or thickening throat, or lips feeling swollen or heavy could indicate the early signs of an allergic reaction. Know the signs so that you can act before your allergic reaction does.

Do not panic

Make sure to remain calm in an emergency. Communicate that you are having an allergic reaction, use your auto injector, and follow up with a health care provider or visit an emergency room immediately.

Do not forget to let your server know about your allergies

You should never feel embarrassed or timid about your health. Don’t hesitate to ask a restaurant how your meal is prepared and inform them of your allergies. Even utensils or pots and pans that are not thoroughly cleaned could trigger a reaction from the cross-contamination with an allergen. Restaurants are well aware of allergies and take steps to prevent any problems, but if you have any concerns about a menu, just ask.

Do not keep your friends and family in the dark

It’s important to limit your exposure to allergens, and those around you can be allies in keeping you healthy and safe. Allergic reactions can strike without warning at school, or at parties, or even with snacks during sports practice. Schools should have a plan in place to handle emergencies and anaphylaxis. Celebrating with friends isn’t so fun if that dinner party or potluck turns into an unexpected trip to an urgent care center or emergency room. Keeping friends and family up to speed on your allergies gives you an extra line of defense.


Food allergies can be dangerous, but with a little care and caution they don’t have to pose a problem for you. Avoiding allergens is important, but if a bad reaction does occur, knowing how to respond quickly and calmly will prevent complications.

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