Changing Treatment for Food Allergies

Questions to review with your healthcare provider when you are prescribed a new therapy for food allergies.

A man in his early 30s speaks with a healthcare provider in an exam room during an appointment about food allergies.

Updated on May 21, 2024

A food allergy is a condition where the immune system reacts to certain foods as if they were harmful substances. The symptoms caused by an allergic reaction to food can range from mild to life-threatening depending on the person and circumstances, and the severity of each reaction can be unpredictable. A person with a history of mild reactions will still be at risk for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that causes difficulty breathing and shock (a sudden reduction in blood flow through the body).

Many people have food allergies from a very young age. Many people develop food allergies as adults. At any age, the avoidance of trigger foods is the only truly proven strategy for managing food allergies.

For many people, medications are also a part of treatment.

Medications for food allergies

In addition to avoiding trigger foods, a person with food allergies should be prepared for accidental exposures and potential emergencies. This can involve carrying an epinephrine autoinjector to be used in the case of anaphylaxis. People are also advised to carry a second epinephrine autoinjector, as severe reactions may require a second dose. A person should also have a step-by-step emergency plan to follow in case of an accidental exposure.

Antihistamines are another type of medication used in the management of food allergies. Histamines are chemicals that are released by the immune system in response to an allergen. Antihistamines block histamines and reduce the effect these chemicals have on the body. These medicines are not as powerful as epinephrine, but they are useful in treating minor allergic reactions. A healthcare provider can advise you on what antihistamines to take, when to take them, and what dosages are appropriate.

Treatment plans can change

For many people, food allergies are a lifelong condition that require lifelong management. This means that a treatment plan may change over time. A healthcare provider may recommend switching to a different antihistamine, or a person may switch between brands when changing insurance coverage.

Another reason that treatment might change is that new types of therapy are becoming available.

Research into food allergies—and how food allergies can be managed—is ongoing. In 2020, an immunotherapy to reduce the severity of reactions to peanut allergies became available. In 2024, a biologic therapy that can help reduce the severity of allergic reactions to multiple foods after accidental exposure became available. Additional therapies are in various stages of development and investigation.

It's important to note that even with more therapies becoming available, avoiding trigger foods is still the primary treatment for managing food allergies.

What to ask when prescribed a new medication

If you are prescribed a new medication for food allergies—such as an antihistamine, a biologic therapy, or an immunotherapy—here are some questions to review with your healthcare provider:

  • How does this medication work?
  • How do I take this medication?
  • When and how often should I take this medication?
  • What is the goal of taking this medication?
  • What are the potential benefits?
  • What are the potential drawbacks? Is there a risk of side effects? Is there a risk of serious side effects?
  • What will this medication cost?
  • Is there anything I should avoid doing while taking this medication?
  • Can this medication interact with other drugs? Always tell your healthcare provider about all medications you are taking, including medications for other conditions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements.
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Claudia M. Lopez, Siva Naga S. Yarrarapu, and Magda D. Mendez. Food Allergies. StatPearls. July 24, 2023.
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Kevin McLendon and Britni T. Sternard. Anaphylaxis. StatPearls. January 26, 2023.
MedlinePlus. Shock.
Eric C. K. Lee, Brit Trogen, et al. The Natural History and Risk Factors for the Development of Food Allergies in Children and Adults. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, 2024. Vol. 24, No. 3.
Elizabeth A. Secord. Food Allergies. Medscape. May 13, 2024.
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Nazmul Islam and Derek K. Chu. What is causing the rise in food allergy? A narrative review of risk factors for the development of food allergy in infants and children. Frontiers in Allergy, 2022. Vol. 3.
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