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Food Allergy (cont.)

Food Allergy Self-Care at Home

For localized hives or other mild skin reactions:

  • Take cool showers or apply cool compresses.
  • Wear light clothing that doesn't irritate the skin.
  • Take it easy. Keep activity level low.
  • To relieve the itching, apply calamine lotion or take over-the-counter antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine maleate (Chlor-Trimeton).

For all other reactions, especially severe reactions, self-treatment is not recommended. Have a companion drive the person to the hospital emergency department, or call 9-1-1. Here's what to do while waiting for the ambulance:

  • Try to stay calm.
  • If it's possible to identify the cause of the reaction, prevent further exposure.
  • Give the person an antihistamine (1 to 2 tablets or capsules of diphenhydramine [Benadryl]) if they can swallow without difficulty.
  • If the person is wheezing or having difficulty breathing, have them use an inhaled bronchodilator such as albuterol (Proventil) or epinephrine (Primatene Mist) if one is available. These inhaled medications dilate the airway.
  • If the person is feeling lightheaded or faint, have them lie down and raise their legs higher than their head to help blood flow to the brain.
  • If the person has been given an epinephrine kit, they should inject themselves as they have been instructed. The kit provides a premeasured dose of epinephrine, a prescription drug that rapidly reverses the most serious symptoms (see Food Allergy Follow-up).
  • Bystanders should administer CPR to a person who becomes unconscious and stops breathing or does not have a pulse.
  • If at all possible, the person or their companion should be prepared to tell medical personnel what medications they have taken that day, what they usually take, and their allergy history.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/7/2012
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