Food Allergies Medication

Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Author: Scott H Sicherer, MD; Chief Editor: Michael A Kaliner, MD  more...
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Medication

Medication Summary

For patients with mild reactions, such as localized urticaria, oral itch, or mild abdominal pain, treatment may be limited to an oral antihistamine.

If the patient has systemic symptoms, the treatment of choice is self-injectable epinephrine administered by intramuscular injection in the lateral thigh. [74] Patients must be educated regarding when to use their self-injector and the proper technique. They should also be instructed to obtain immediate medical assistance (eg, call 911) in the event of anaphylaxis.

Epinephrine should likely be administered to any patient with a history of a severe allergic reaction as soon as ingestion of the food allergen is discovered and the first symptoms appear (and possibly even before symptoms appear).

Patients should not depend on bronchodilators or antihistamines to treat anaphylaxis. However, antihistamines can be used as additional therapy during an allergic reaction, and a bronchodilator may be used as adjunctive therapy for asthma. [74] Although corticosteroids are often given for anaphylaxis, they are not believed to alter the early symptoms; theoretically, they may reduce late symptoms.

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Antihistamines

Class Summary

These agents act by competitive inhibition of histamine at the H1 receptor. This mediates the wheal and flare reactions, bronchial constriction, mucous secretion, smooth muscle contraction, edema, hypotension, CNS depression, and cardiac arrhythmias.

Diphenhydramine (Anti-Hist, Aler-Dryl, Benadryl)

This is a first-generation antihistamine with anticholinergic effects that binds to H1 receptors in the CNS and the body. It competitively blocks histamine from binding to H1 receptors. It is used for symptomatic relief of symptoms caused by release of histamine in allergic reactions.

Cetirizine (Zyrtec)

Second-generation histamine H1-receptor antagonist. Competes with histamine on effector cells in the gastrointestinal tract, blood vessels, and respiratory tract. Available in a variety of oral formulations (tablet, liquid, chewable, oral disintegrating) to allow ease of administration.

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Alpha/Beta Adrenergic Agonists

Class Summary

These are used in the emergency management of systemic allergic reactions or anaphylaxis (eg, urticaria, angioedema, bronchospasm, cardiovascular collapse). The effects are immediate and dramatic. The appropriate use of this class of medication can be lifesaving, especially in the emergency management of anaphylaxis.

Epinephrine (EpiPen, EpiPen Jr, Adrenaclick, Auvi-Q)

Epinephrine is the drug of choice for the treatment of anaphylaxis. It helps to decrease symptoms of anaphylaxis by increasing systemic vascular resistance, elevating diastolic pressure, producing bronchodilation, and increasing inotropic and chronotropic cardiac activity. In addition, epinephrine helps to reduce urticaria, angioedema, laryngeal edema, and other systemic manifestations of anaphylaxis. Products are available as autoinjectors to ease caregiver or self-administration. Auvi-Q also provides audible instructions and visual cues.

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