If you’ve been newly diagnosed with a food allergy, it can be a scary thing. While you may need to take some daily precautions, the good news is that, if you take a few extra steps, you can live a long, normal, healthy life.
The easiest way to treat food allergies is to avoid the relevant food in the first place. While this may seem simple enough, it can be quite a hassle depending on what you’re allergic to. You’ll need to carefully scan food labels before you eat anything packaged and always be sure to let the waiter at a restaurant know when ordering. Even then, depending on the severity of your allergy, you may be exposed to a food even if it’s not in what you’re eating. Cutting food with the same knife, or being prepared in the same factory can get enough in a product to trigger a severe reaction.
When avoiding a specific food, you’ll need to learn all the possible names for what you’re allergic to so you can spot them on a label. Once you learn what you’re looking for, you start to remember what products you can and cannot have. If you can’t find a lot of meals, there are home cookbooks out there made especially for people with the same allergy as you.
Even if you do avoid the food or foods you’re allergic to, there’s always a chance you’re going to accidentally eat it and have a reaction. That’s why it’s important to learn about the other treatment options, just in case. If your reaction is mild and simply annoying, treatment will probably just be to take an antihistamine. This counteracts one of the chemicals your body releases that causes the allergic reaction.
Anaphylaxis is characterized by several severe symptoms all occurring at once. If you experience anaphylaxis from exposure to an allergen, you will probably have to carry around an epinephrine pen, or epi-pen. This is a device that looks like a pen and contains a spring-triggered needle and epinephrine. This will help slow the reaction, giving you time to get to the hospital and get treated. Remember, epi-pens are never a substitute for medical treatment; they generally just give you more time.
Many non-food allergies can be treated with allergy shots. This is where they inject a small amount of the allergen into your body in very small amounts that increase with time. As the amounts get larger, your body stops reacting to the allergen and the symptoms go away. While this can be a great long-term treatment of many allergies, it has not been shown to help with any food allergies.
In addition to avoidance and emergency precautions, there are several medical procedures that are actually being studied that may actually cure food allergies. While many treatments are promising, that doesn’t mean they are effective and you should always discuss their risks and benefits before you start a treatment program.
Often the treatment for food allergies is time. These allergies often develop in childhood and go away as the child hits puberty. The problem with this is that it’s not true of all food allergies and some may go away and then return later in adulthood.
They can be scary, but millions of people live normal, healthy lives with food allergies every day and so can you.