Food allergies are a prevalent health condition where the body mistakenly identifies certain foods as harmful. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), approximately 15 million Americans have food allergies, and the numbers are continuously rising. Steering clear of foods that can trigger allergic reaction can be tough, so it’s important to educate yourself on what causes the allergy and how to avoid them. Here are several tips that can help in avoiding mild to life-threatening allergic food reactions:
Know the allergens
There are numerous foods that can cause allergic reactions, however, 90% of all recorded food allergies comes from eggs, milk, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans and wheat. For some people, they can be allergic to one food, while others tend to have more than one food allergen. Knowing which food allergen to avoid is the best way to stop the occurrence of an allergic reaction. It is also essential to consult a doctor or an allergist so they can evaluate the severity of the condition and on how to manage it properly.
Check out your family history
Doctors believe that allergies can be hereditary, thus knowing your family history can also help in determining the possibility of acquiring any food allergy. It is wise to discuss your allergies with those around you, not only with the immediate family, but also with other family members, friends and colleagues so everyone who spends time with you can better understand your risks.
Read food labels
Learning how to shop for food is important, especially if you or someone you live with has food allergies. When buying packaged food in a grocery, make sure you read the ingredients on the labels carefully. In some cases, ingredients are pooled and listed in generic terms such as artificial flavors, seasonings or colors. If you’re unsure about any of the ingredients, call or write the manufacturer. Not knowing the ingredients in the food you’ll be eating can be dangerous and in some cases, life threatening.
Have an allergy action plan
Having an action plan is very important as well, especially for children who have severe allergies. It is best to consult a doctor or an allergist with regard to planning strategies in the event of a reaction, so you will be able to consider all likely allergic reactions and what should be done in an emergency. A strong allergy action plan includes when to take medication, when to increase medication, and when is it necessary to call a doctor. Wearing a medical bracelet or necklace is also important, especially if you’re going out. This will help responders to quickly identify your condition and history during an emergency.
Cook your own food instead of dining out
Eating out can be risky for a person with food allergies since most restaurants and food chains don’t usually provide detailed ingredient lists for the food they serve. Food preparation is also done in an open kitchen, where cross contact and contamination of foods can occur. The best way to avoid an allergic reaction is to cook your own food instead of dining out. Try to enroll in cooking classes to learn a variety of dishes, and to learn more about local and fresh ingredients.
Bring your own meals
There are also times when bringing your own food is much safer than risking your life in eating food prepared by other people. Sure, this might not be the most socially acceptable thing to do, but it could save your life. There are some establishments or events that don’t offer allergy-safe food, so it’s best that you’re ready when such situation arises.
Keep medications on hand
Always have allergy medications, like antihistamine and epinephrine injector, on hand at all times. These medications can be your life saver, especially in emergency situations. Antihistamines are best for mild allergies, but they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for epinephrine. For severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, a shot of epinephrine is needed as well as a strongly-advised trip to the hospital for monitoring.
Be prepared for emergency situations
Food allergies have no known cure, so avoidance is the most effective way to evade an allergic reaction. Make sure that you and your family are always prepared when an emergency situation arises. Keep all emergency numbers listed on your speed dial, and make sure that a copy is also posted near all other telephones in your home. All medications should be easily accessible and make sure to keep a dose or two of all your medications with you at all times, especially if you’re going out.