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My 1990s allergy brain says “ take Benadryl for allergic reactions”

My 1990s allergy brain says “ take Benadryl for allergic reactions”

Benadryl for allergic reaction

… and a few more. 

I was born in February 1989 and diagnosed with a peanut allergy the following summer. Let’s just say, I felt like my family were pioneers when it came to figuring out how to do this thing called food allergy life. However, our management methods would make any allergy parent cringe nowadays. Epipen, what’s that?  We took Benadryl for allergic reactions.

Some common things you may have heard in our house were…

  • Take a swig of Benadryl. (then wait)
  • Go puke it out. (then wait)
  • Just touch it to your tongue. (then wait)

There was no phrase “Epi First, Epi Fast”. In fact, I didn’t carry an adrenaline autoinjector until the age of 11. So much has changed since those days of living in the allergy wild west. We no longer turn to Benadryl for allergic reactions or give something a little try. We did a lot of waiting “to see”. This type of “treatment” is long gone from any recommended allergy emergency plan. 

It can be hard for me to turn off my original allergy training and follow the proper guidelines for my recommended allergy action plan. Overriding the use of  Benadryl is the hardest thing for me. Even if I have ten adrenaline auto-injectors in my purse, if my Benadryl is not with me, then I feel like I am not complete. 

Rewiring Benadryl for allergic reactions out of my brain

It took two allergists and a podcast to get me to reprogram my brain and switch from using Benadryl for an allergic reaction to using my adrenaline auto-injector (and one too many ER visits.) The risk is not worth it.

In the most recent episode of The Itch Podcast, I selfishly asked Dr. G and Dr. Wright, a board-certified allergist and Medical Director at Thermo Fisher Scientific, all my 90s food allergy kid questions. We explore a range of questions from why can’t I still just take Benadryl for an allergic reaction to what’s the deal with throwing up food that contains your allergen?!

You can listen to our episode here:

The old ways of the 1990s have been overturned as research and a greater understanding of how to handle allergic reactions in the food allergy community have evolved. Let’s examine two of the more common management methods of my childhood.


What about throwing up a food allergen? 

As much as I want to believe that throwing up a food allergen, and waiting it out was a thing of the past, I have heard stories of teens still using these techniques. So I want to clarify that although it is indeed a thing of the past. It also remains a myth of the present.

Unfortunately, allergic reactions don’t work like poison. For example, once a poison is ingested it can kill you, but if thrown it up may help save your life. On the contrary, allergic reactions happen in your immune system, which is not something you can ‘clean out’ like you can with your stomach. So once the food enters your body, the reaction has already begun.

Listen to minute 24:50 in The Itch Myth Busting episode to learn more about throwing up. 

🎙 iTunes 🎙 Spotify 🎙 Stitcher


Don’t ‘just’ touch it to your tongue!

By now we know that just trying a little bit of your allergen is 100% not a smart thing. My family learnt early on that “touch it to your tongue”, where I would literally lick something to see if I would react, was not a safe way to see if a certain food would cause a reaction. 

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Dining hall at Colgate University

Trying just a little bit has been long dispelled. You still do hear people question whether you can just taste it. This is no way to avoid having an allergic reaction, quite the opposite, it is asking you to have one!

Food allergy reaction management has come a long way. However, there are still a lot of myths that circulate around the internet about what strategies are best to employ. 

As someone with thirty-plus years of managing food allergies, who made it out of the 1990s a little more informed and with an adrenaline auto-injector in hand, I leave you with my evolved words of wisdom. 

When in doubt spit it out –> Epi first, Epi fast!

This article was reviewed by Dr. Payel Gupta.

Listen to Food Allergy Myth Busting Part 2 now!


This post is sponsored by Allergy Insider.


This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions regarding your health or a medical condition. 


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