10 Quick Tips for those Living with Food Allergies.
- Read the ingredients (on absolutely everything!)I'm going to start with this basic tip. I know this may sound like the most obvious thing, especially if you're an old pro on living with an allergy. But for those out there who are newly diagnosed, you'd be surprised what foods contain or "may contain" certain allergens. Always triple check and have a look out for the bold print on the bottom. I bought some packaged rosemary the other day and added it in a pasta dish that I was making. Just out of habit glanced at the ingredients while I was putting it away. There is was, written in bold, "may contain traces of peanuts and tree nuts." I couldn't believe it! It was just plain rosemary. But it could have came in contact with these allergens while in the factory. And another thing- even if it's a food you've been eating for years, the ingredients could still change. Here's a good chart that shows ingredients to be aware of https://www.foodallergy.org/file/tips-avoid-allergen.pdf
- Keep calm and carry an EpiPen!Always carry your EpiPen. Again, this may be extremely obvious to some of you. However, I've heard one too many stories about people who have had an allergic reaction and didn't have an EpiPen with them. It's extremely important to always have it on you, preferably two doses (each one wears off in ~15 mins). Even if you're not going to be eating, you never know when you can come into contact with an allergen and how severe your reaction could escalate. If you're going somewhere that you don't want to be carrying a bag (such as hiking, running) check out this SPIbelt at https://spibelt.com. I recently bought one for a backpacking trip across Europe. It was so convenient!
- Always carry Benadryl.I never leave my home without Benadryl. It's important to know that Benadryl alone won't treat anaphylactic shock. But it will treat mild reactions. I've taken it in cases when an allergen has touched my skin and hives appear. And if for some reason you don't have an EpiPen on you- Benadryl is better than nothing!
- Wear medical identification.Whether it's a bracelet, necklace or even a tattoo (I've seen it!), you should always have some form of identification that informs others of your allergies. I ordered my bracelet online at https://www.medicalert.org.au and it includes a list of my allergies and the fact that I carry an EpiPen.
- Have a Food Allergy Emergency Plan.This can help prepare and treat allergic reactions. It is a form that includes information such as your allergies, symptoms of a reaction, how to treat them, and emergency contact information. You can find one on the following websites: https://www.foodallergy.org/file/emergency-care-plan.pdf
- Teach those around you how to use an EpiPen.It's always good for your friends and family to know how to use an EpiPen in case they ever have to administer it to you. Most people think that they already know how or that they'll "figure it out if it happens." But in the unlikely event that it does happen, they will most likely be panicking and "figuring it out" won't be that easy. Have you ever heard of someone jabbing the EpiPen with the wrong end and stabbing their own hand? I have. So lets avoid sending two people to the hospital. Take a minute and train those close to you! OneSpot Allergy Blog has a great anaphylaxis training session available online at http://blog.onespotallergy.com/2016/05/free-online-anaphylaxis-first-aid-training. This includes EpiPen training (Module 3 & 4) and is very informative.
- Never eat and/or drink off others.I've always followed this rule, especially because most people don't understand the severity of allergies. You have no idea what they have eaten previously that day. I've had my friends look me in the eye and say "it's okay, I haven't eaten eggs today!" and they are sitting there eating a sandwich full of mayonnaise. It's not that they are intentionally trying to hurt me. They just don't realize. So I keep myself safe and I just don't share drinks or food.
- Check before you peck!I completely understand that it's embarrassing (and can dull the mood) having to ask someone if it's safe for you to kiss them. Especially if it's a new relationship. But I know from personal experience that it is waaay more embarrassing when your face turns into a pumpkin after a smooch! So always make sure that the person you're about to lock lips with is aware of your allergies and hasn't eaten any of your allergens. I feel most comfortable when they brush their teeth and wash up before hand.
- Do a skin test.Before I try a new food I always test it by rubbing it on my wrist or the side of my mouth to see if I react. I always give it a few minutes just to make sure!
- Call ahead to restaurants.It's always a good idea to call ahead to a restaurant before going there. Inform them of your allergies and ask if there is anything on their menu that is safe. Another idea is to visit their website and see if they have any allergy policies. We are in the process of creating an Allergise App that will help you locate allergy-friendly restaurants near you. Keep an eye out for it's upcoming release!