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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Prevention

You can prevent anaphylaxis by avoiding the allergens that trigger your symptoms. For example, people with food allergies should always check the list of ingredients on food labels, and they should always ask the waiter or waitress to check with the chef about food ingredients before eating at a restaurant. If you are allergic to bee stings, you should limit gardening and lawn mowing, and you should not wear perfumes, hair sprays or bright clothing that attracts insects.

People with a history of anaphylaxis should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace to alert others in the event of another reaction. In addition, ask your doctor if you should carry a pre-loaded syringe of epinephrine (adrenaline), a medicine used to treat anaphylaxis. At the first sign of symptoms, you or a helper (family member, co-worker, school nurse) would inject the pre-loaded epinephrine to treat your allergic reaction until you reach medical attention.

Allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, are used to gradually change the type of reaction that a person has after an insect sting. Allergy shots cause the immune system to react by producing varieties of antibodies and cells that do not cause dangerous symptoms, instead of producing antibodies and chemicals that result in allergy symptoms. On rare occasions, allergy shots also can be used to prevent certain medication allergies. Allergy shots are not used to treat food allergies, because the shots themselves are too likely to cause anaphylaxis. However, oral (swallowed) immunotherapy using extraordinarily diluted samples of peanut is a new treatment for peanut allergy. The results of treatment so far suggest this therapy will be effective and appears to be relatively safe.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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