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A boy with allergic infection

[blog updated March 2024]


I have been seeing a lot more cases of swelling, or angioedema to use the medical term. Angioedema can be easily treated and reversed with the proper medication – but Benadryl is not the best choice when it comes to treating angioedema.

Why? Angioedema involves the swelling of the deeper soft tissue in the body and antihistamines, such as Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra, or Zyrtec don’t have the ability to fully reverse this type of inflammation.

Angioedema From Food Allergies

Peanut allergy

The location of the swelling should help your doctor determine if the cause of your angioedema is allergic or due to another medical condition. For example, swelling of the lips, face or eyelids in many cases is due to an allergic trigger.

One of the most common causes of angioedema in these locations is due to a food allergy. Typically, I hear that a patient has eaten at a restaurant, many times an Asian restaurant where the food is served with many sauces, and within an hour the allergic reaction has affected the lips or tongue, and maybe also the face or eyelids – think of Will Smith after he ate shellfish in the movie Hitch. If the allergic reaction is not so obvious, a blood test or a simple, non-invasive skin test can reveal the cause.

Angioedema From Contact Dermatitis Allergies

Another common cause of swelling in these areas can be from a contact dermatitis allergy. This is where a person touches a substance that gets transferred from the fingers to the face and can trigger intense swelling. Recently in our office, I was visited by a woman who started coloring her hair. She applied the hair color on Friday and by Sunday her eyelids were swollen so badly she could hardly see! This is an example of what we call a delayed allergic reaction – meaning, the allergic swelling doesn’t take full effect until 48 hours after the application. My office does skin patch testing which is a safe way to determine which chemical in the product caused the reaction.

Angioedema From Medications

Allergic tablets

The other main cause of angioedema can be medications themselves. I have seen several cases where common drugs like Aspirin or Advil have caused the reaction. Another well-known cause of facial or neck angioedema can be from a specific type of blood pressure medication called ACE-inhibitors, which includes popular medications such as Diovan.

Hereditary Angioedema

Angioedema is not only caused by allergic reactions, but it can also be hereditary. Hereditary Angioedema can involve a dangerous, recurring swelling of the respiratory tract that can cause asphyxiation. It is often confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Appendicitis, because of the severe stomach pains it can cause. There are specific blood tests that can be ordered called complement proteins which can reveal if you have this disorder. The good news is that there is a replacement medication to prevent these attacks today. Non-allergic causes of swelling can be infectious and require antibiotics or autoimmune medications, such as in inflammatory arthritis.

The Answer

So if Benadryl isn’t a good treatment for allergic swelling, what is?

The answer is oral cortisone. The short term use of oral cortisone can quickly reverse the deep swelling and make you look normal again. The next step is to visit your allergist for a complete medical evaluation to determine the cause. I hope Will Smith reads this article he will remember not to drink Benadryl but to call his doctor for some cortisone!

If you desire relief from your allergies, we can help. We offer allergy drops treatment to successfully cure our patients of their allergies. Learn more about how our allergy treatment differs from traditional allergy treatments and why it is the optimal way of dealing with annoying allergies.

Think You Suffer from Food Allergies

If you think your angiodema is related to a food allergy. Contact our office to schedule an allergy test to confirm. We offer pain-free allergy testing in our NYC and Long Island offices.

We offer a proven combination treatment for dangerous food allergies – XOLAIR + food allergy drops.

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Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.
Mitchell Medical Group in NYC and Long Island

About the Author – Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.

Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.

Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. is a Board Certified Allergist and Immunologist based out of NYC. He graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine and completed training at the Robert Cooke Allergy Institute in New York City. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the author of Dr. Dean Mitchell’s Allergy and Asthma Solution: The Ultimate Program for Reversing Your Symptoms One Drop at a Time. Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. has also been featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Fitness Magazine, Dr. Oz and News NY 1. Dr. Mitchell also hosts the podcast The Smartest Doctor in the Room – a combination of a lively, personal and in-depth interview with top healthcare specialists.


Everything you need to know about angioedema, –

Cortisone, Oral Tablet. –

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