Food allergy is an unpleasant or dangerous immune system reaction after a certain food is eaten. Dealing with food allergies can be daunting. The effects of a reaction range from somewhat bothersome to potentially deadly. There is no cure, so anyone with a food allergy must vigilantly avoid the foods that trigger a reaction. So how best to protect yourself? These 5 tips can help you create a system that can feel manageable, even routine:
Always read labels
Today, food labels include important allergy information such as whether any additives contain milk protein or byproducts of wheat, or whether a food was produced in a facility that processes nuts. Still, you need to read every label, every time — even if you have purchased the item hundreds of times before. Manufacturers frequently change ingredients and an allergen may be part of a new formulation.
Take care when cooking
If everyone in the household isn’t following an allergen-free diet, you want to be sure to avoid cross-contamination. It’s a good idea to have two sets of cooking and eating utensils — one exclusively for the allergic person — so that a knife used to cut a peanut butter sandwich isn’t inadvertently pressed into service buttering the toast of someone who’s allergic to peanuts. All dishes and utensils should be thoroughly washed in hot, soapy water between uses.
Dine out defensively
It’s wise to let the manager or chef know about your food allergy before you order. This will ensure that you are not served food that features or contains food that you are allergic to.
Formulate an action plan
Make a list of steps to take should you accidentally eat the food you are allergic to, and carry a printed copy of the plan with you.
Always carry your medication, ideally two doses
If your doctor has prescribed emergency medication for you, always take it with you and always carry two to be sure you’re prepared in case you get into trouble. Some people with food allergies also carry antihistamines. Don’t leave home without your medications.
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