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How To Treat An Allergy

Allergies occur when the body's immune system reacts to a particular food or substance that it sees as harmful, but how can you treat an allergy? In the UK, allergies affect more than 1 in 4 people in the UK at some point in their lives. They can be very common in children and can go away with age, but can also carry on into adulthood and can develop at any stage in life. We’re covering everything you need to know about allergies and how you can treat them…

What is the difference between seasonal allergies and a food allergy?

Seasonal allergies, also known as hayfever and allergic rhinitis, are caused by pollen on plants and trees. This is a specific type of allergic reaction, a chronic allergic reaction and the symptoms are similar to when you have a cold, so typically a runny nose, sore throat, congestion and watery eyes.

Food allergies are the body’s response to something it sees as dangerous and your body tries to fight it off.

There are 14 major food allergens identified by the Food Standards Agency, and which Caterers and food businesses are required by law to be able to provide customers with accurate information if they are included in any of the food products they produce, sell or serve.

What are the most common allergies in adults?

The most common allergens include;

  • Grass and tree pollen (Hay Fever/ Allergic Rhinitis)
  • Dust mites
  • Animal dander
  • Food - see below
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Medicines - Including ibuprofen, aspirin and certain antibiotics
  • Latex
  • Mould
  • Household Chemicals

As well as common allergens, there are a number of upcoming allergens such as kiwi, banana and foods that are classed as ‘nightshades’. Catch up on all the most common upcoming allergens with our handy guide.

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?


  • Sneezing
  • Itching
  • Wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing
  • Raised, Itchy Red Rash, Hives
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, eyes or face
  • Tummy pain, feeling sick, vomiting, diarrhoea,
  • Dry, red and cracked skin

Severe (Anaphylaxis):

  • Swelling of the throat and mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Blue Skin/Lips
  • Collapsing and losing Consciousness
  • One or more of the mild symptoms

How do you treat an allergic reaction?

The best treatment for allergies is complete avoidance of the allergen itself - but sometimes that is out of the sufferer’s control, so it’s important for everyone - from those with allergies to the Caterers who serve them - to know the best ways of treating and responding to an allergic reaction.

In our series What To Do If Your Customer Has An Allergic Reaction you can find out what the experts have to say on the best way to react, but the most important step - stressed by everyone we spoke to is that this is a medical emergency and you should call 999 for an ambulance.

Mild allergic reaction symptoms can be treated with over the counter medication such as antihistamines, corticosteroids or decongestants. Antihistamines are great for treating allergies as they prevent symptoms such as hives by blocking histamine receptors so the body doesn’t react to the allergens. These should be used as and when you notice symptoms of an allergic reaction and to prevent allergic reactions.

Corticosteroid creams can treat skin rashes related to allergies and provide soothing relief for itchy, burning skin. Lotions and creams, especially moisturising creams, can help reduce skin redness and itchiness.

Nasal sprays (saline-based) can be used for congestion related allergy symptoms, however it should be noted that these shouldn’t be used for longer than a week as they can make your symptoms worse if used for long periods.

Steroid medicines so any sprays, drops, creams and any inhalers or tablets can reduce redness and swelling caused by an allergic reaction and help provide relief from a tight chest and wheezing.

How to treat an allergic rash

Red itchy rashes are medically termed ‘contact dermatitis’, and allergy contact dermatitis is caused by the body reacting to something that it sees as an allergen. When someone is experiencing a reaction such as a rash, it’s important to ease the symptoms and prevent infection. As hard as it is, it's important to try and resist scratching.

This range of over the counter products and home remedies can help relieve itching and stop swelling;

  • Hydrocortisone Cream
  • Calamine Lotion
  • Antihistamines
  • Cold Compress to cool and soothe the affected area
  • Oatmeal baths

How are allergies diagnosed?

Allergies are diagnosed by medical professionals. To evaluate whether someone has an allergy a doctor will usually ask detailed questions about signs and symptoms of allergies, perform a physical exam and ask if the person has kept a detailed diary of possible symptoms and triggers.

If someone does have food allergies their doctor will ask them to keep a detailed diary of the foods you eat and ask if they’ve stopped eating the suspected food during the allergy evaluation. The following tests are used to diagnose allergies;

A skin test: Skin tests prick the skin to expose a person to small amounts of proteins in an allergen. You’ll be able to tell if a person is allergic to specific allergens as they’’ll have raised bumps/hives at the test location on their arm.

Blood tests: Immunoglobulin E (the proteins found in allergens, known as IgE) blood testing measures the amount of allergy causing antibodies in the bloodstream, known as immunoglobulin antibodies. A blood sample is sent to a lab where it can be tested for sensitivity to certain allergens.

*Note: Both tests can be falsely positive or falsely negative. *

After allergy tests the potential sufferer will be asked to cut out suspected foods, this is also known as an elimination diet, and usually involves cutting out foods you might be allergic to for 4 weeks and then reintroducing them to the diet to see if they cause symptoms.

Can allergies be cured?

It’s not possible to cure allergies but you can treat and control them. Those with allergies must carry their AAI (Adrenaline Auto-Injector) at all times and always check foods before eating them. Having medications such as antihistamines, corticosteroids and decongestants can help with relieving symptoms of allergies.

Caterers can help those with allergies be careful about what they’re eating by encouraging conversations around allergies and ingredients when ordering, and by using our range of flyers, allergy icons and posters and Erudus tools to show that you’re allergen aware.

To get an insight into what it’s like living with allergies check out the Insider Diaries , in which we hear from a variety of individuals on how they deal with their allergies differently.

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How Erudus can help you manage Allergens

Here at Erudus we offer a number of tools and solutions for caterers that help you find answers and understand your products and what they contain so you can be clear on allergens and give your customers the answers they need, whenever you need them. Discover how Erudus can help you keep your customers safe, here.

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