Have you or your child recently been diagnosed with a new food allergy? Whether it is the first food allergy you are dealing with, or an addition to a long list, dealing with a new food allergy can be hard and stressful.
Here are some tips for coping with a new food allergy.
Immediately Stop Consuming the Food
This may be silly, but the first step is to immediately stop consuming the food. Some people think “oh, well, I can have a little bit, right?” or “well what if I just have it once in a while?”. If you are diagnosed with a food allergy (and not an intolerance) you must immediately stop eating the food. Avoidance is the only treatment for food allergies.
This may mean at times you have a fridge full of leftovers that have to go! And a pantry that may need to be cleaned out too! That’s OK!
Read the Labels
Read the labels on everything you commonly eat to ensure the new allergen is not present, and understand different names for the allergen.
In the United Sates, the top 8 food allergens Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat and soy) MUST be labeled, and the label clearly calls out the allergens.
If you have an allergy that doesn’t fall under the top 8, the labels can be a bit tricker to read, so read them carefully.
Here’s something else to note, statements like “processed in a facility with”, “processed on the same equipment with”, “may contain” and the like are VOLUNTARY by the manufacturer. They do not have to tell you if your allergen is likely to come in contact with their product.
If you have any doubts, be sure to contact the manufacturer to determine if the food is safe for you to consume.
Also, ask your allergist if you can safely consume products with labels such as “may contain” or “processed with”.
Shop the Perimeter
Next time you go to the grocery store, pay attention to the perimeter. This was one of the first things my allergist told me. The permitter will contain items like produce, dairy, and meats – things that are not pre-packaged and processed. Stick to whole ingredients that you know are safe.
Avoid Many Ingredients in Packaged Foods
When I do use something processed, often after I’ve contacted the manufacturer, I try to keep the ingredients to a minimum. Why? Well, why not? Do you really want to be eating foods that you can’t pronounce the ingredients with anyway?
Figure Out Your Safe Foods
Figure out your safe foods, whether they be pre-packaged items you have determined are safe for you or quick and easy meals you can always count on.
Chicken and rice have never done me wrong, neither have home made French fries in the air fryer!
Don’t Get Overwhelmed By Replacing Everything
You know, there’s no hard and fast rule that says you have to find direct replacements for everything you’re allergic to. You may feel pressure to to feel like. you “fit in” and “aren’t missing out”.
My example is a diary free cheese I can actually eat, because I have so many allergies. Over the years I found several brands I could eat, but I never really liked them or enjoyed eating them.
I made it simple – I just stopped using cheese in recipes. For example When I make Pizza, I load it up with vegetables and don’t miss the cheese at all.
It is okay if you don’t want to replace everything!
Figure Out Safe Similar Alternatives for Common Items
On the other hand, food is a staple of celebration in many cultures. Figure out safe alternatives for the most common items you enjoy, or you want to experience. The things that jump to mind are things like cake and cupcakes commonly found at parties, and foods your family enjoys on a regular basis.
One thing to note is that things don’t have to be exactly the same! Similar is good enough. Breaded chicken tenders made with wheat and gluten free flour or bread crumbs will look almost exactly like their counterparts.
Non dairy ice cream looks just like regular ice cream!
I talked about my hatred for non-dairy cheese, so I came up with a “fake” Mac and cheese recipe that uses carrot and sweet potato! Looks exactly the same and is delicious!
Get creative and adventurous! Sometimes it can take a while to get where you want to go, but you will get there!
Carry Your Food Allergy Action Plan
Work with your allergist to create your Food Allergy Emergency Care Plan, which used to be called a Food Allergy Action Plan. There is a great template provided by FARE which you can find here. Once you and your allergist determine the right plan for you, carry a copy with you It is important that you understand what to do, and when to do it.
I keep mine in the pouch in my purse where I have my EpiPens and other medications.
Carry Your EpiPens or Epinepherine Auto Injectors
Always carry your EpiPens or epinephrine auto injectors. Epinephrine is THE ONLY treatment for anaphylaxis.
I have pink pouch in my purse where I carry them as well as my other medications.
Once, I went to work, and somehow I forgot the pouch. It happened literally once in eight years, and it was the first couple years I had food allergies. I didn’t eat anything that day, or even lunch, and I went home early.
Always carry your medication, or do not eat when you don’t have them until you can get your hands on your medication again.
Wear a Medical ID Bracelet
Wear a medical ID bracelet that lists your allergies and clearly states “CARRIES EPINEPHRINE”. If you can’t fit all of your allergies, you may need to get a bit creative, and only list the most serious ones.
PEANUTS TREE NUTS FISH SHELLFISH
SESAME SUNFLOWER SEEDS
It isn’t everything, but it gets the point across that I have severe allergies!
Lauren’s Hope makes some great looking medical ID bracelets! You are bound to find something you will love, your child will love, and and even the most reluctant teen will love!
Set a Lock Screen On Your Phone
Set a Lock Screen on your phone. There are a ton of apps that will make you an emergency Lock Screen. Mine has my name and says something to the effect of severe allergies, lists the allergies, says I carry epinephrine and albuterol in the pink pouch in my purse, and says in case of an emergency, inject epinephrine, call 911, and then to call an emergency contact and their number.
The name of the app for iOS I use is called ICE.
Talk About It
Talk about your new food allergy, and what it makes you or your child feel like. If you experienced anaphylaxis, it truly is scary and there’s nothing wrong with feeling upset about it.
I had my most severe reaction over seven years ago, and it still sends chills down my spine thinking about it. The good news, is that if you’re reading this on behalf of your child, many have told me that children seem to bounce back much faster than adults.
You Won’t Miss the Food Forever!
I’m over seven years out of having developed food allergies as an adult. Was the beginning hard? Oh, it was so hard! Over time, I figured things out, and now I love to cook and eat! Honestly, I don’t even miss the things I can’t eat any more. I’m at the point where if someone is eating something I can’t, I can appreciate sure, it smells great, but I have no desire to try it.
Food allergies are a big adjustment, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Over time, you will get used to dealing with your allergy and it won’t be a big deal at all.