Treat­ments & tips for food al­lergy suf­fer­ers

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Dr He­len Dodd

In Food Al­lergy Part 1, the signs and symp­toms of food al­ler­gies were dis­cussed with ref­er­ence to spe­cific foods which may cause a prob­lem. Food al­lergy is an im­mune re­sponse to a spe­cific pro­tein within some foods, that the body re­acts to, be­liev­ing it to be for­eign and harm­ful. Se­ri­ous life-threatening al­ler­gic re­ac­tions are re­ferred to as an ana­phy­lac­tic shock.

At present there is no cure for a food al­lergy, but many foods can be iden­ti­fied and tested us­ing a Skin-Prick Test. This sim­ple di­ag­nos­tic test, car­ried out by a spe­cialised der­ma­tol­o­gist, was dis­cussed in Food Al­lergy Part 1.


It is very im­por­tant to have your GP write up an ac­tion plan in the event that a fam­ily mem­ber does in­gest a prob­lem food. This ac­tion plan should be re­viewed ev­ery 12 months to de­ter­mine if any fac­tors have changed. Treat­ments for al­ler­gic re­ac­tions in­clude an­ti­his­tamine tablets, cor­ti­sone tablets and cor­ti­sone in­jec­tions pre­scribed by doc­tor as well as an in­jec­tion of adren­a­line, also called ep­i­neph­rine. Adren­a­line in­jec­tions are used to pre­vent an ana­phy­lac­tic re­ac­tion. Adrenalin in­jec­tions are used for emer­gency treat­ment at hos­pi­tals but many pa­tients carry a spe­cially de­signed EpiPen® Auto-In­jec­tor with them at all times. This is an au­to­matic sy­ringe that de­liv­ers a sin­gle pre-mea­sured dose of ep­i­neph­rine.

It is also im­por­tant that the par­ent and child learn to ad­min­is­ter these spe­cialised in­jec­tions. The pack­age in­sert shows clear di­rec­tions on how to use the Auto-in­jec­tor. They are avail­able in two strengths, for adults and chil­dren. Chil­dren at risk need to have them avail­able while at school and at home.


1. Man­ag­ing food al­ler­gies is im­por­tant. In­di­vid­u­als at risk need to be ed­u­cated on what foods cause


the al­lergy so that they can avoid con­sum­ing them. Chil­dren can eas­ily be ed­u­cated about their al­ler­gies. This is vi­tal so that they are able to tell a teacher or other non-fam­ily mem­bers what foods they are not al­lowed to eat. Liv­ing with a food al­lergy is quite a chal­lenge as many foods have trace amounts of an al­ler­gen in them.

2. Eat­ing out has chal­lenges. At restau­rants, ask for in­for­ma­tion about the con­tents of the food be­ing served. Some­times sim­ple things such as sauces and may­on­naise con­tain in­gre­di­ents that can cause an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion. Un­der Aus­tralian law, a food busi­ness must pro­vide ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion to cus­tomers of the pres­ence of the al­ler­gens that are listed be­low. This is not a com­plete list, but men­tions the most com­mon al­ler­gens.

• Crus­taceans and their prod­ucts (e.g. prawns, crab, cray­fish etc.)

• Peanuts and peanut prod­ucts, tree nuts (e.g. al­mond, hazel­nut, wal­nut, cashew, pe­can, Brazil, pis­ta­chio, macadamia etc.)

• Soy­beans and soy­bean prod­ucts, sesame seeds and prod­ucts

• Fish and fish prod­ucts

• Egg and egg prod­ucts, milk and milk prod­ucts

• Gluten and ce­re­als con­tain­ing gluten (e.g. wheat, rye, oats, bar­ley and spelt)

Fur­ther In­for­ma­tion is avail­able at from the web­site of the Western Aus­tralian Depart­ment of Health.

3. learn­ing to read la­bels on pack­aged food. This is one of the most im­por­tant fac­tors in ed­u­ca­tion. Food man­u­fac­tur­ers are aware of the po­ten­tial life threatening al­ler­gic re­ac­tions and are obliged by law to print warn­ings on the la­bels in large type. These state­ments of­ten re­fer to trace amounts that may be in the pro­cessed food. This can oc­cur in the man­u­fac­tur­ing

and pack­ag­ing pro­cesses where the same ma­chin­ery is used for dif­fer­ent prod­ucts. How­ever, there are many other in­gre­di­ents that are listed in the con­tents to which an in­di­vid­ual may be al­ler­gic but not dis­played in the very large type, as are the warn­ings re­quired trace amounts of nuts and gluten.

4. Make your own food. Don’t buy pack­aged prod­ucts. One way to avoid these prob­lem foods is to not buy prepack­aged foods. Make your own foods from ba­sic in­gre­di­ents; main meals, bis­cuits and desserts, so you know the in­gre­di­ents they ac­tu­ally con­tain. The time used in food prepa­ra­tion will be eas­ily off­set by the time taken at hospi­tal emer­gency de­part­ments and stress to the fam­ily mem­ber.

It is im­por­tant to re­alise that when­ever a fam­ily mem­ber has a food al­lergy, the of­fend­ing foods must not be pur­chased or brought into the house. All of the fam­ily mem­bers will be­come part of the vig­i­lance that is re­quired to pre­vent al­ler­gic food re­ac­tions.

In the next is­sue of Great Health GuideTM, Food In­tol­er­ance will be dis­cussed to pro­vide an un­der­stand­ing of the dif­fer­ence be­tween

Food Al­lergy and Food In­tol­er­ance and how these con­di­tions can af­fect your nu­tru­ition.


He­len Dodd BSc. BPharm. PhD, is a re­tired phar­ma­cist, con­tin­u­ing to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and ed­u­ca­tion on nu­tri­tion and dis­eases that af­fect modern so­ci­ety. Con­tact He­len by email.

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