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This website is not intended to be clinically oriented. Thus, we will provide links to reliable medical websites that should be consulted as the primary source of this type of information.
It is highly recommended that individuals who believe that they are allergic to one of more foods or food ingredients to seek competent and expert medical diagnosis to confirm the suspicion.
Self or parental diagnosis is a common practice with food allergy but is often unreliable. Without expert medical assistance, individuals often identify food as a causative factor when it is not or else they identify the wrong food or too many foods.
Misdiagnosis obviously leads to unnecessary avoidance diets. These avoidance diets can be nutritionally harmful in some circumstances especially in infants and young children.
Additionally, in severe cases of food allergy, a diagnosis by an allergist will allow access to a prescription of epinephrine (adrenalin), a potentially life-saving drug in cases of anaphylactic shock. Thus, obtaining a competent diagnosis is essential to proper management of the condition.
The treatment or management of IgE-mediated food allergies can be approached in two different ways.
- Allergic reactions can be treated pharmacologically to resolve the symptoms
- Preferably, the avoidance of the allergenic food(s) will prevent the occurrence of allergic reactions.
The pharmacological treatment of allergic reactions is also primarily a clinical situation. Again, we will direct you to medical web sites that can provide expert advice on this subject. Obviously, this aspect should be addressed with a physician or allergist.
Pharmacological approaches are available for the treatment of the symptoms that occur during an allergic reaction. Anti-histamines are useful drugs for treatment of most mild to moderate allergic reactions and function by blocking histamine receptors in the tissues. Epinephrine or adrenaline is a much more powerful drug that has the ability to resolve severe anaphylactic reactions in many cases. Those patients with a history of life-threatening reactions to foods are typically advised to carry an epinephrine-filled syringe with them at all times.
The major approach to the treatment for true food allergies is their prevention their occurrence through implementation of a specific avoidance diet. For example, a peanut-allergic person would be advised to avoid peanuts in all forms. Considerable responsibility is placed upon these individuals; they must acquire considerable knowledge of food composition. Dietitians can be helpful in teaching clients to interpret food labels to detect ingredients made from the offending food.
Resources from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network are also available to help food allergic individuals and families manage food allergies. Compliance with such avoidance diets is enhanced if the number of foods eliminated is kept to a minimum. Thus, accurate diagnosis is an important initial step.
Only a few hypoallergenic foods are available for use by food-allergic individuals. In the case of infants with cows’ milk allergy, several alternative formulae can be fed.
- Soybean-based infant formula works well in many cases, although some infants will develop soybean allergy as a result of that exposure.
- Casein hydrolysate formula can also be used successfully in the majority of cases. This formula is based upon extensively hydrolyzed casein. Although casein is a common cows’ milk allergen, the hydrolysis of the casein to a mixture of very small peptides and amino acids eliminates the allergenicity for the vast majority of milk-allergic infants.
- However, a few exceptional case reports of allergic reactions to casein hydrolysates. In such extreme cases, an elemental formula can be used; these formulas are based upon synthetic amino acids and other simple chemical and nutritional components.