Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Let the person's primary health care professional know about the reaction later if he or she was not involved in their treatment.
An allergy specialist (allergist) can determine the difference between true food allergy and food intolerance.
The allergist will ask about the sequence of events that led to the reaction and record a thorough dietary and medical history.
He or she may use special tests to find out which food is responsible for the allergic reaction.
By conducting these tests, the allergist can identify the food responsible for the allergy and help create a plan for avoiding that particular food.
The first step in evaluation for food allergies is testing.
Skin test: Dilute extracts of various foods are placed on the skin. The allergist looks for the formation of a bump on the skin after 10 to 20 minutes. Swelling at the site of the test can mean that the person is allergic to that particular food.
Blood test: This may be used to check for antibodies against specific food allergens. These results are confirmed with the oral challenge test in which small doses of the suspected food are given in a mixture of different foods to look for a reaction. If symptoms develop, then the person is proven to have allergies to the particular food.
Elimination diet: With this test, the person stops eating foods that may be triggers. Gradually these foods are reintroduced back into the diet. The allergist will then be able to pinpoint the allergy-causing food if a reaction occurs.
Individuals with food allergies and their family members should have a clear plan of action in case of an accidental ingestion of the offending food. Emergency medications such as antihistamines and epinephrine should always be available.
Susceptible people should keep with them an epinephrine kit (brand names are Epi-Pen, Ana Kit, Ana Guard) in case of exposure to the allergen.
The kit contains a premeasured dose of epinephrine in an easy-to-use syringe for self-injection.
The person can inject the medicine into their thigh as soon as they feel an allergic reaction coming on.
Even if the person injects him or herself with epinephrine, they should still proceed immediately to a hospital emergency department.
It is not unusual for a reaction to abate and then return within a few hours. Even if the person requires no further treatment, they should remain at the hospital until 4 to 6 hours after the beginning of the reaction.