Managing Food Allergies: The Basics
Eating Out: While eating at home is always a safe option, you may find yourself wondering: will I ever dine out again? Can I trust any relatives or friends enough to deal with the changes? What about venturing out to restaurants? Determining where you’re comfortable eating is a personal decision. Some people prefer to do all (or almost all) of their eating at home. Others feel comfortable dining almost anywhere as long as they are careful to ask the appropriate questions.
If you have multiple food allergies that belong to different families (i.e. dairy, tree nuts, legumes) it may make life a little more complicated than you were hoping for. But don’t fret, dining out can still be safe and enjoyable. The trick will be to find a restaurant that you’re comfortable with and that demonstrates good allergy awareness, and then keep things simple. Choose grilled meats and vegetables, fresh salads with oil and vinegar and fruit and coffee for dessert.
Speak Up About Food: With food allergies, you have to ask questions and get over shyness when someone else – from Grandma, to auntie, to a waiter, to a teacher or a colleague – wants to serve food to you or your child with this allergy.
We teach kids to respect adults and authority, but with an allergic child, it’s important to teach them not to eat foods that others offer – unless mom or dad has pre-approved or (when they’re older) unless they’re sure of the ingredients. For adults, get over embarrassment; be certain to ask about ingredients, and learn to do this in an efficient, confident manner.
Another important point to make is that you should always carry your auto-injector with you and most importantly, never eat anything unless you have it with you. Even when something seems safe, if there is the slightest risk of cross-contamination or the tiniest trace of your allergen, you cannot afford to have a reaction without your emergency medication with you. Allergic reactions are unpredictable and often progress quickly so you do not necessarily have enough time to wait for emergency responders to bring help.
Staying Informed: Finally, an ongoing part of managing food allergies is education. Learn as much as you can about your allergies, and teach others what you know.
A note of caution: be careful where you get your information from. The internet is great for a lot of things but information found on it can also scare you and be inaccurate. Make sure that you find reliable websites from organizations that specialize in allergies or university-hosted websites.
Once you have the basics down, it is always great to stay in the loop on the latest on treatments, allergy alerts and other allergy information. Signing up for Allergic Living’s monthly e-mail NewsReport is a great way to keep on top of things.
Explore our website and you’ll find many resources to help you educate teachers, friends, family and co-workers in a way that will be easy for them to grasp. And remember, if you remain cool and collected, those around you will too. Allergies are indeed a life changing experience but they do not have to take the joy out of life either!