Straight, No Chaser: Prevention and Treatment of Food Allergies
Whether or not you personally have a food allergy, it is likely you will find yourself in a situation with someone who does. Food allergies affect approximately 15 million Americans. Given that this could be a life-threatening event, it’s important for you to know some basics about addressing allergic reactions to food as they occur.
Tips to Prevent
Let’s start with some tips for you to better prevent allergic reactions, because once you become aware that you have a food allergy, avoidance means everything. Remember from this post that allergic reactions can occur without you eating the food; simple exposures such as touching or breathing the food can prompt a reaction.
- Develop a habit of carefully checking the ingredient labels of food products. You don’t get to live life casually. You must be diligent and make sure you’re not exposing yourself.
- Learn other names for the food or foods that you and your doctor think it best to avoid. Especially when you’re eating out, you should present these names on a list to your kitchen staff to ensure your safety. Have the waiters check with the cook or chef. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may wish to do this before entering restaurants, as vapors may be enough to trigger reactions in some.
- Have your physician provide you a list of symptoms and instructions in case of an allergic reaction. Keep it within easy reach, and share it when out and about eating. Yes, you need to be this diligent.
Tips to deal with emergencies
- The first consideration is you need a plan. Your life probably isn’t as simple as the movies, where you get to stab yourself with some epinephrine and go about your business five minutes later. Rummaging through a pharmacy looking for Benadryl while your throat is closing isn’t your best course of action.
- Wearing a medical alert bracelet can be life saving in the event you pass out. It can be the only tip available to a medical professional trying to save you.
- If you’ve been instructed by your physician on how to self-administer epinephrine (adrenaline), go for it under the correct circumstances.
- In the absence of that, or while you’re following your physician’s instructions, calling 9-1-1 (i.e., emergency services, an ambulance) is your best bet. They will have the medicine needed to rescue you and the equipment needed to help you if things go wrong. Because you might not have much time, getting help can be more important that attempting to treat yourself.
- You should be aware that once in the emergency room, treatment focuses on blunting the immune response with steroids and various medicines called antihistamines (histamines are substances that are released by the body in response to perceived threats; inappropriate histamine release causes many of the symptoms of an allergic reaction).
Advances in Food Allergy Treatment
There is no cure for food allergy. Researchers in food allergy treatments are focusing on new methods of treatment, some of which your primary care physician or allergist may consider.
- Oral and sublingual immunotherapy: This involves providing small amounts of the allergic substance either by mouth or under the tongue, and treating reactions as they occur. The idea here is to allow you to better tolerate increasing exposures to the allergen.
- Chinese herbal medicine: An herbal remedy known as FAHF-2 is being studied to assess effectiveness against those serious, life threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).
- Anti-IgE therapy: IgE is the molecule our bodies use to fight off allergic threats. Anti-IgE molecules bind to IgE in an effort to curb that response and provide possible short-term relief treatment from food allergies.
While these treatments are still in ongoing studies to determine safety and long-term effectiveness, these potential advances represent the best source of optimism in food allergy research in recent memory. If you have any additional questions, certainly contact your Sterling Medical Advice expert consultant or your physician.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
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