You’ve just come home from the doctor’s office. You have a white prescription slip for an EpiPen and a newly diagnosed sesame allergy for your child.
Life is about to change, but rest assured, food allergies can be managed. It helps if you to adopt a cautious, not fearful, approach and develop a plan. Allergy management is a journey, but one most navigate quite successfully.
Experts in the allergy field advocate for a triple AAA rating when it comes to allergy management: Awareness, Avoidance, and Action (in the case of emergency). This three-pronged approach should give you some assurance and a good foundation to manage your sesame allergy. Your child’s allergies may even include other seeds such as sunflower, mustard, flax, or even perilla or hempseed.
Awareness: Educating Others
Sesame and seed allergies are on the rise, but many still find them unusual. It’s important that your family, friends, child’s coaches and teachers all know about the sesame or other seed allergy. Most people who care about your child will want to help out, although they might forget from time-to-time and offer foods that he or she can’t eat. That’s to be expected.
The concept of “tell, show, do” is a good one for building awareness. You can tell people about the allergy, and even print out a brochure about sesame that’s available from Health Canada. You can show them the auto-injector (and how it’s used) and the MedicAlert bracelet, or print off information about sesame allergy.
Make sure you fill out all the necessary anaphylaxis emergency plan form with photo for your child. Provide an auto-injector, and meet with teachers to discuss allergies and your strategy.
Make it your goal to build support and create a safe circle around you. Be helpful: Do volunteer to bring sesame and seed alternative foods to group parties: such as the buns without sesame or bring eggplant dip instead of hummus dip which often uses ground sesame. This helps you continue to fit in, and assists those who may be nervous about feeding your child.
Avoidance: Get Alternatives
Not eating or otherwise ingesting sesame (or other seeds) is the key to staying safe and healthy. Making your own food in a sesame-free home is the first line of defense. Many foods can be made with seedless alternatives: you bake granola bars without seeds, make hummus with chickpeas, garlic and olive oil.
Learn to read labels. Every time. The labeling of sesame and other seeds is not required in the U.S., but you can still call a manufacturer if you suspect it might be in the ingredients. In Canada, sesame is one of the priority allergens and must be listed in store-bought food ingredients. Learn the alternate names for sesame (see below) and beware of generic items like “spices” or “vegetable oil” that can contain sesame seeds or their oils.
Try to stick to foods from countries with stricter labeling requirements. Since sesame is used extensively in baking and imported foods from Asia – where there are not strict allergen controls, you may want to avoid buying those items and make an alternative versions of them at home.
Read food allergy labels carefully every time. Ingredients do change. One popular spaghetti sauce recently began adding sesame oil after years of using another type.
Next: Eating Out Safely