Food Allergy

ExitCare ImageA food allergy occurs from eating something you are sensitive to. Food allergies occur in all age groups. It may be passed to you from your parents (heredity).


Some common causes are cow's milk, seafood, eggs, nuts (including peanut butter), wheat, and soybeans.


Common problems are:

  • Swelling around the mouth.

  • An itchy, red rash.

  • Hives.

  • Vomiting.

  • Diarrhea.

Severe allergic reactions are life-threatening. This reaction is called anaphylaxis. It can cause the mouth and throat to swell. This makes it hard to breathe and swallow. In severe reactions, only a small amount of food may be fatal within seconds.


  • If you are unsure what caused the reaction, keep a diary of foods eaten and symptoms that followed. Avoid foods that cause reactions.

  • If hives or rash are present:

  • Take medicines as directed.

  • Use an over-the-counter antihistamine (diphenhydramine) to treat hives and itching as needed.

  • Apply cold compresses to the skin or take baths in cool water. Avoid hot baths or showers. These will increase the redness and itching.

  • If you are severely allergic:

  • Hospitalization is often required following a severe reaction.

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that describes the allergy.

  • Carry your anaphylaxis kit or epinephrine injection with you at all times. Both you and your family members should know how to use this. This can be lifesaving if you have a severe reaction. If epinephrine is used, it is important for you to seek immediate medical care or call your local emergency services (911 in U.S.). When the epinephrine wears off, it can be followed by a delayed reaction, which can be fatal.

  • Replace your epinephrine immediately after use in case of another reaction.

  • Ask your caregiver for instructions if you have not been taught how to use an epinephrine injection.

  • Do not drive until medicines used to treat the reaction have worn off, unless approved by your caregiver.


  • You suspect a food allergy. Symptoms generally happen within 30 minutes of eating a food.

  • Your symptoms have not gone away within 2 days. See your caregiver sooner if symptoms are getting worse.

  • You develop new symptoms.

  • You want to retest yourself with a food or drink you think causes an allergic reaction. Never do this if an anaphylactic reaction to that food or drink has happened before.

  • There is a return of the symptoms which brought you to your caregiver.


  • You have trouble breathing, are wheezing, or you have a tight feeling in your chest or throat.

  • You have a swollen mouth, or you have hives, swelling, or itching all over your body. Use your epinephrine injection immediately. This is given into the outside of your thigh, deep into the muscle. Following use of the epinephrine injection, seek help right away.

Seek immediate medical care or call your local emergency services (911 in U.S.).


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.