July 14th, 2008
Food plays a big part in our lives, from fueling our bodies to forming the center of social events. Yet for over 11 million Americans, food is also fraught with danger and health risk, as they deal with a wide range of food allergies. There are eight different foods that cause the bulk of severe food allergies, which also, unfortunately, are pretty commonly found everywhere from school cafeterias to fine dining establishments. So how can you navigate the world of food while still protecting yourself from a serious allergic reaction. The key in many cases is to simply be proactive. Here are some ways you can work to ensure your food is safe.
Eating out can be one place where having food allergies can be especially scary as you can’t see how your food is being prepared. If you’re not familiar with a restaurant or not sure if a dish has ingredients in it that could set you off be extremely careful. In most cases, it’s better to be safe than end up on a trip to the emergency room. It can be helpful to call ahead to a restaurant and speak to the chef or others in charge to see how foods are prepared. Sometimes you might not even suspect a food has touched nuts, seafood or another allergen without asking about it specifically. Generally speaking, it’s better to stick with simply prepared foods when you can and avoid buffets where serving utensils or cookware may have touched other foods.
If you’re eating at a friend’s home, make sure he or she knows about your food allergy well in advance. This will help your host to find something that you’ll be able to eat. If they don’t know what to make, offer some solutions or bring a dish with you.
At home, you’ll have a lot more control over what you can eat but you’ll still need to be careful. Always read the label and look for warnings that may indicate how foods have been processed or shipped. Labeling has improved in recent years to help allergy sufferers so it should be clear when a product is safe and when it should be avoided.
Despite these precautions, allergic reactions to foods can still happen. Make sure close friends and family know what to do in case of an emergency as well as the symptoms you’ll exhibit from eating the foods. You should always carry an kit with you containing the things you’ll need to deal with an allergic reaction including an EpiPen, Benadryl and any prescription medication you may take.
With a little planning and precaution, you can enjoy a great meal out, a dinner party with friends or indulgent snacks without having to worry about your food allergies.
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