Living with food allergies is not easy, but with the right precautions and perspective, it doesn’t have to be life altering. This week being Food Allergy Awareness Week, we are especially taking the time to learn how we can care for others who have food allergies, and most importantly, be aware. For those that don’t have allergies, the best thing you can do is educate yourself on the food allergies of those in your life, or if you are a teacher, then those in your classroom. Part of that means learning the symptoms of food allergies and what the symptoms look like for them specifically. One great way to put your allergy symptoms knowledge to the test is taking the Auvi-Q allergy signs and symptoms quiz.
What Are Food Allergies?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food.” In other words, this means your immune system thinks that allergen, or more specifically the protein in that allergen, is a threat. Since it determines it is a threat, it tries to get it out and keep it from spreading, even to the point of harming the person who consumed the allergen. These reactions can vary in severity even to the point of being life threatening, which is called anaphylaxis. It can also be as simple as sneezing or a runny nose for minor reactions.
My Personal Experience with Food Allergies
I was diagnosed with food allergies at a very young age, so young in fact that I don’t remember life before allergies. I have allergies to eggs, nuts, and shellfish. My family discovered this while on vacation when I was in a baby carrier at a seafood restaurant in Tybee Island, GA. While cracking crabs, a few drops of juice got on my skin and I got a rash. I was fine then, but afterwards I was tested and they discovered all the foods I was allergic to.
As a kid growing up with allergies, I had to learn to check all the labels and ask lots of questions whenever eating things. One thing I had to learn is when you have allergies you must assume you cannot eat something until proven wrong, but eventually you start to learn what things are safe, risky, and what to always stay away from. Even with being very careful, I had many reactions and ended up in the hospital a handful of times. The lesson to learn from that is no matter how careful you are, you must get in the habit of having your EpiPen or epinephrine device with you.
One of the hardest parts of having food allergies is going out to eat and eating at someone else’s house. My ask is for those who work in restaurants or have people over with food allergies is for you to have humility. Why it might be easier to give a best guess on what you think is in something, please take the time to talk with the chef or read the labels. This could literally mean the difference in life or death.
If you have questions about allergies, post those in the comments below, or if you have allergies yourself, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments as well.
Resources Related to Food Allergies
Living life with allergies is not easy, but you do not have to do it on your own. Check out the resources from FARE designed for those living with allergies.
As an individual you cannot get an epinephrine device unless you have allergies, but through EpiPen4Schools you can get four prescribed to the facility so your facility can be ready in case the child has a reaction without having an EpiPen or epinephrine device on file.
If you own a restaurant, you can easily make an allergy menu for your restaurant that will help those who have allergies eat at your restaurant safely. Learn more here. In Georgia, restaurants are also allowed to keep an epinephrine injector on hand in case one of your customers has an allergic reaction. Learn more here.