How I Treat Reactions
Obviously I do my best to make safe decisions and not react. That’s what this blog is all about. But there are circumstances out of my control pretty often, especially since I have dangerous reactions to airborne corn, and honestly yeah, I do just screw up. My diet is pretty limited right now so I *have* to try new things. I am usually very careful and when a food fails I only deal with a very mild reaction before I call it quits, but sometimes I mess up, and sometimes the food is SO corny that trying only small amount causes a major reaction.
So when I do react, this is what I use:
- 25-50 mg benadryl, compounded in gelatin capsules from Letco and safe filler provided by me
- 1000-2000mg quercetin (I use TwinLab brand) taken immediately and every 8 hours until symptoms subside completely
- 150mg zantac, compounded in gelatin capsules with no filler.
For a normal, non-scary reaction, I typically take 1 benadryl. If my reaction is severe, I dump the benadryl capsules out into water and drink, which helps it take effect faster. I have in a pinch dumped the capsules directly into my mouth without water, or even chewed on them to get the medication out and into my system faster, however that makes my tongue and throat numb everywhere it touches, which is a scary feeling when your allergic reaction is throat swelling. More information on getting corn-free benadryl.
Important: If you are having an anaphylactic reaction, simply taking Benadryl is not enough. No antihistamine will stop anaphylaxis once it starts. The only thing that treats anaphylaxis is epinephrine. It is common hospital practice to adminster benadryl and “wait and see,” but this is NOT the correct treatment and can and has led to deaths.
If you are in doubt, epi. If you epi, always go to the hospital, period.
When you have an allergic reaction, your body is flooded with histamines which run around creating inflammation all over your body. The actual symptoms of the reactions are due to your various cells’ response to the histamine. Antihistamines like benadryl simply block the receptors on your various cells that would notice and respond to the histamine. That means that when they wear off, if there is still histamine in your system, your cells will start responding again. This is known as a rebound.
The reason I take quercetin in addition to the benadryl is because quercetin is a mast cell stabilizer. Mast cell stabilizers actually help prevent the release of histamine in the first place, which *should* help prevent rebound reactions as the antihistamines wear off. I have noticed that it helps me.
After a reaction it will usually take me at least a day to recover, sometimes up to 10 days if it was a bad one. If I had to epi and go to the ER, I could be toxxed out for *weeks*. My tongue will burn every time I eat something and I will just feel like I’m mild-to-medium reacting constantly, or about to react. I call it “feeling full-buckety.” There’s no real cure for this other than time and lots of water, but there are a few things I do to help move the toxins out of my system faster.
How I Detox After A Reaction
- Bentonite clay baths or foot soaks in clay from Living Clay Company. I have only tried the pure bentonite clay (sold as the “detox clay powder”) and not any other products. I am on their mailing list and wait until they have free shipping promotions and then order large quantities at a time. I rarely have time for a full bath but I find that the foot soaks are 80% as effective as a full bath and easy to do often.
- Bentonite Clay taken internally, with LOTS of water, to help absorb toxins/allergens and move them through the system faster. I find this works better than activated charcoal at detoxing after a reaction, but I am mentioning both options.
- Activated Charcoal, taken internally, for the same purpose as the bentonite clay. Again, lots of water to flush it through your system! I am no longer recommending a specific brand of activated charcoal because the manufacturers keep changing what they do. You’ll need to do some research and find something that works for you.
- Epsom salt baths and foot soaks- I am sulfur sensitive so I don’t do this anymore but it does help many. Dr Teal’s unscented epsom salts are available at Kroger, Costco, Target, and on Amazon, and are safe for most.
A Note on Prevention
As i mentioned, antihistamines block the receptors that stimulate your mast cells to release histamines. Therefore blocking those receptors does not reduce the histamines already in your system, nor does it stop the inflammatory processes already happening from histamines that have already found a cell to stimulate. Thus it is better used to *prevent* reactions. Obviously avoiding triggers is the best bet, but something else I do is to take both antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers in advance when I know I am going into a dicey situation. Now, I don’t mean that I take antihistamines and then eat something bad. That’s stupid and dangerous. I just mean that if I think I am going somewhere where I could have an airborne exposure, (like Costco on a weekend when all the food samples are out) or if I am in a situation where small children will be climbing all over me and possibly trying to stick hands and objects in my mouth, I take some appropriate precautions.
Before I go in to a potentially allergenic situation, I take:
- 5 mg levocetrizine (xyzal)
- 500mg quercetin (unless I have already had 1000mg in the last 24 hours, then I do not take more)
- 200 mg cromolyn sodium (gastrocrom, mast cell stabilizer)
- 150mg zantac
I can still take up to 50mg of benadryl on top of this and if needed atarax on top of this.
A Note on Zantac: Antacids to treat allergic reactions??!
When I have gone to the ER for an allergic reaction, they have given me two intravenous injections: Benadryl (diphenhydramine), and Zantac (ranitidine). The first time I got an injection of Zantac, I was totally confused. Isn’t that a medication for acid reflux?
Well, yes it is, but the mechanism by which it does that is by blocking (antagonizing) histamine receptors. Compare to proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec (omeprazole). Prilosec actually stops the production of stomach acid, while Zantac stops the signals for gastric acid secretion *and* allergic reactions from being noticed.
Because of this, a number of folks with anaphylactic food allergies take a daily preventative H1 and H2 blocker. I’m one of them. I don’t hope to be on this kind of medication for the rest of my life. For one thing, H2 blockers have a number of effects on vitamin and mineral absorption over the long timer, including interfering with absorption of vitamin B12. Also, taking drugs just masks symptoms, and I’d much rather find the cause of the problem and heal. But I’m totally okay with doing it right now to reduce the possibility of a life-threatening reaction.
What I Use Daily
The only pharmaceutical medication I currently use daily is a prescription mast cell stabilizer called cromolyn sodium. I quit taking antihistamines daily because I was experiencing rebounds of extremely increased sensitivity any time I discontinued them for a day, to the point of having life threatening reactions from airborne exposure. Supposedly the “non-drowsy” antihistamines like xyzal are not supposed to have this rebound effect, so I may have been mistaken or I may have something weird going on that is specific to me.
I take daily:
- 200mg cromolyn sodium, compounded in a gelatin capsules, 4x daily
- 1000mg quercetin
During heavy seasonal allergy season, I take:
- 10mg levocetirizine (xyzal), compounded in a gelatin capsule daily.
- 150mg ranitidine, compounded in a gelatin capsule, no filler, twice daily
If I am traveling or know I will be exposed to a lot of triggers, I go ahead and take a prophylactic benadryl in the morning and at night. The benadryl is compounded and I take 25mg at the same time as the ranitidine, morning and night. More if needed. More on what I do when I travel.