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Medications for Food Allergy Symptoms

Updated on October 19, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Deborah Pedersen, M.D.
Article written by
Kelly Crumrin

Avoiding allergenic foods is the only way to prevent food allergy symptoms. However, it can be hard to avoid food allergens, especially when eating out or traveling. Some foods with ingredients that seem safe turn out to be cross-contaminated with allergens. Some medications can improve the symptoms of allergic reactions or stop life-threatening allergic reactions.

Types of Treatments for Food Allergy Symptoms

Epinephrine Auto-Injectors

People with severe allergies are recommended to carry epinephrine auto-injectors at all times for rescue in case of accidental exposure to food allergens. Auto-injectors allow the user to self-inject epinephrine automatically into muscle. Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is a hormone and neurotransmitter. Epinephrine works to open the airways, stop hives and swelling, increase blood pressure, and decrease abdominal cramping. Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for a severe allergic reaction. Epinephrine auto-injectors are sold under brand names including Adrenaclick, Auvi-Q, EpiPen, EpiPen Jr, and Symjepi as well as nonbranded generic products.

An epinephrine auto-injector should be administered at the first sign of a serious allergic reaction. Severe allergic reactions may require multiple doses of epinephrine. People at risk of anaphylaxis should always carry two epinephrine injectors at all times. Call 911 immediately after administering an epinephrine auto-injector. Follow-up at an emergency department is necessary because a second anaphylactic reaction can sometimes occur hours after the first.

Some people who carry an epinephrine auto-injector wear medical identification alert jewelry notifying strangers of their allergy. Some also attach a prominent tag to the bag in which they carry their auto-injector.

Epinephrine can make people feel jittery after use. There is no contraindication to using epinephrine in cases of anaphylaxis.

Antihistamines

Mild symptoms of food allergy are sometimes improved by taking antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), or Claritin (loratadine). Antihistamines are believed to work by blocking the action of histamines (chemicals associated with allergic reactions) in the body. Antihistamines will not prevent anaphylaxis and are not recommended as a first treatment for people with severe allergies.

Antihistamines make some people drowsy.

Corticosteroids

Also called steroids, corticosteroids may help to slowly improve some symptoms of food allergy such as asthma and skin rash. Corticosteroids are synthetic hormones that suppress immune system response. Steroids may be taken orally, applied topically to the skin, or inhaled for nasal or respiratory symptoms. Prednisone, Prednisolone, Flonase (fluticasone), hydrocortisone, and Advair (fluticasone/salmeterol) are examples of steroids sometimes used to treat symptoms of food allergies. Used long-term at higher doses, steroids can cause weight gain, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Corticosteroids can take hours to take effect. They are not recommended as a first treatment for people with severe allergies.

Albuterol

Albuterol is a fast-acting rescue medication prescribed for asthma. Albuterol is inhaled and is sold under brand names including Ventolin and ProAir HFA. Albuterol can cause dizziness, nervousness, or headaches. Albuterol can treat cough and shortness of breath associated with an allergic reaction, but will not prevent anaphylaxis. Albuterol is not recommended as a first treatment for people with severe allergies.

Other Treatments

Some people with food allergies participate in clinical trials to potentially access new treatments for food allergies.

Is There a Cure for Food Allergies?

Despite encouraging research toward finding a food allergy cure, there is at present no cure for food allergies.

Condition Guide

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Deborah Pedersen, M.D. has specialized in allergy and asthma care as well as pediatrics for over 16 years. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Kelly Crumrin is a senior editor at MyHealthTeam and leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.

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