What is histamine and how does medication work against an allergic reaction?

(1st grade through 3rd grade.)

You know that when you have an allergic reaction that you have to take your medicine. Now let’s learn how that medicine works.

An allergic reaction to food happens when you eat food that your body thinks is harmful. Luckily, there are medicines that can reverse these symptoms. Epinephrine is one of these medications. When injected into the body from an EpiPen® or Twinject®, epinephrine relaxes the muscles in your body and tightens your blood vessels, slowing and stopping the allergic reaction. Another medicine used to fight allergic reactions is Bendadryl®. This medicine is an antihistamine; it helps to block allergic reaction symptoms like hives or itchiness. It works best as a preventative medicine, but is also used to treat allergic reactions.

To learn more about antihistamine visit www.faankids.org and check out the Food Allergy Basics page with Terry, the Wise Owl.

To better understand histamine and medicines used to fight allergic reactions, let’s build a model of how they work.

Project Directions

  1. Pretend that a paper straw wrapper is your stomach.
  2. Tear a small part of one end of a straw wrapper off, and put the other end of the straw against a table. Push the straw wrapper down to the table, so that it bunches up tightly or folds back and forth like an accordion. This represents the stomach cramps you might get when you eat a food that you are allergic to.
  3. Fill a cup with water. The water represents the medicine (epinephrine).
  4. Put the straw into the cup of water. Place your thumb over one end of the straw and lift the straw out of the cup without removing your finger from the straw. The straw will have water inside of it. Do this again, but only fill an inch of the straw with water, make sure to keep the water in the straw.
  5. Hold the straw above the folded straw wrapper. Gently remove your thumb so that the water goes onto the straw wrapper. 

What You Learned

What happens to the straw wrapper when the water is put on it? The medicine relaxed the stomach and stopped the stomach cramps.

Now you know why it is important to always carry your epinephrine auto-injector and Benadryl®, you never know when you might need it. Your body can react to an allergen very quickly and it is important to be prepared.

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