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Treatment

Since there is no medical cure for food allergy, the only option for allergic people is strict avoidance of the offending food(s), even in trace amounts. The most effective way of avoiding the offending food(s) is to read the food labels thoroughly and to ask about ingredients when eating away from home. Consequently anyone involved in providing foods (manufacturers or caterers) needs to know and communicate the ingredients and possible cross-contaminants in the food(s) sold to allergic people, as they must avoid the offending food(s) even in trace amounts.

Food manufacturers have a very important role in labelling food(s) properly. You can read much more about that in the sections on "EU Legal Requirements" and on "Food Manufacturing". Caterers have just as an important role in knowing the ingredients and possible cross-contaminants in food(s) they sell. You can read much more about this in the section on "Catering".

In addition to food avoidance different kinds of medication may help if an allergic person has accidentally ingested an offending food depending on the severity of the symptoms. Mild symptoms such as itching, skin rashes, and runny nose may be treated with antihistamines. Bronchodilators can be used to treat asthmatic symptoms. Corticosteroids can also suppress allergic symptoms. However, these medicines will not be enough to control a rapid-onset life-threatening allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis. If an allergic person is considered to be at risk of having a severe allergic reaction he/she may wear a medical identification bracelet, which describes the allergy and what to do in an emergency. In addition they should always carry adrenaline and administer it without delay at the first sign of any symptoms. The symptoms may subside after administration of adrenalin but sometimes they recur after apparent recovery. Therefore:

If somebody experiences a severe allergic reaction you should always call an ambulance.

At the moment it is not possible to be vaccinated against food allergy. People allergic to pollen can get a vaccine against pollen allergy but the vaccine only seems to have very limited effect on the food allergy caused by cross-reacting foods.  

Occasionally complete elimination of the offending food(s) for 1-2 years may result in a loss of clinical symptoms, but allergies to foods, like fish and peanuts, usually persist for life.

More information

Chapter on management of food allergy:

  • Chapman JA et al. (2006). “Food allergy: a practice parameter.” Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 96, S1-S68.