Food allergies are very difficult to deal with on a day-to-day basis. That's why I always say "Stay Alive and Thrive with Food Allergies". Both are very difficult to do at times. It is important to not only to stay alive and allergic reaction free, but also to lead a positive productive life and percolate peace. I've nearly died and fought for my life in the ER many times as an adult with food allergies now for over 20 years. Through the course of my day-to-day life, I've become an allergy expert, a nutrition and well-being coach and a resource for many. I've created a list of 20 allergy tips for those allergic or to provide support to someone allergic, and to those helping, such as a teacher, parent, relative, friends, etc.. - all to help you stay alive and thrive with food allergies. Elizabeth's 20 Tips to Stay Alive and Thrive with Food Allergies 1. Believe them.
The allergic person isn't faking a food allergy. It is real and Anaphylaxis is life-threatening. The last thing we want to have happen is for a child or anyone die from an allergic reaction, which does happen, unfortunately. I interviewed three families on my radio show who have lost their children to allergic reactions, for example. 2. Call 911.
If an allergic reaction strikes call 911 immediately. Every second matters with Anaphylaxis. 3. Carry and Learn about Epi-Pen(s).
Carry your Epi-pen(s) at all times. You never know when you might inadvertently eat something with an allergen. You do not want to be without your epi in an emerency situation. If you are a relative, friend, care-giver, co-worker, teacher or around the person with food allergies, please take the time to know how to administer Epi-Pen. The person with the allergic reaction can't do this generally themselves. It goes into the outside thigh. If you are a school, have Epi-Pen(s) in the school. Again, Carry your Epi-Pen(s) and allergy medications everywhere with you, at all time and be vocal if you need them with you or your child. You are your best advocate for yourself or your child. Also carry Benadryl on-hand or other medications specified to calm the allergic reaction and aid in saving the person's life. One trick with me, is also giving me water. While waiting for the EMT's to arrive and start an IV, water has helped me greatly. (In quantity.) In a classroom, restaurants, public transformation, workplaces and public settings, I believe the Epi should be with an defibrillators as standard life-saving care. In a classroom, I believe, if possible, the Epi and other allergic medications should be kept with the teacher, not the nurse. It takes too much time to run to the nurse to get what you need fast enough in a situation where ever second matters. 4. Wear a MedicAlert.
I know my life was saved because the emergency responders spotted my MedicAlert bracelet on multiple occasions.
Medical ID bracelets reduce treatment errors which may result from not having a patient’s health record during an emergency situation or upon hospital admission.
A medical ID speaks for you in the event of an emergency if you become unresponsive
First responders and medical personnel are trained to first look for medical identification jewelry in an emergency. Medical IDs will immediately alert emergency medical professionals to your critical health and personal information.
There are unlimited reasons for you and your loved ones to wear a medical ID when living with common or unusual medical ailments. A medical ID will save your life and the lives of those you love.
Kids should wear a medical bracelet also and there is an assortment of bracelets for kids to wear here: https://www.medicalert.org/product/catalog/medical-ids/youth-kids.
My story is here. https://www.medicalert.org/member/elizabeth-guarino.
5. Get involved. Food Allergies Are Everywhere.
Be aware this is a larger issue than just the schools and small children. For example, I developed food allergies 20 years ago now. This extends to people of all ages and the children are growing up. The environments extend into places like restaurants, shopping malls, colleges, workplaces and airlines, especially, as these 1 in 13 (12 million people) or so with food allergies age.
Build your community with Medic-Alert membership and other groups.
In a school, work or other setting, inform, instruct. Inform people of the allergy and instruct them on how to save you or your loved one’s life. Provide all necessary paperwork to the school for medications. 7. Read all labels for food. Know you food. Become a creature of habit.
People with food allergies tend to be creatures of habit with food because they know they can easily eat certain foods without incident. New foods really can actually scare us, cause anxiety, fear and stress. Children are trusting souls. If you have a food allergic child in your classroom, check with the parent before giving them something new. Don’t assume it is just fine. Educators, don’t trust any food unless it is specifically given to you by the parent. Kids: same thing. For parents: I would advise packing a school lunch for your child. School lunches may also be a huge issue. Treat the school lunch like a restaurant because you never know if an ingredient had an allergy warning that someone overlooked. Beware of Processed Foods: Granola bars, cereal, ice cream, and baked goods from grocery stores. Eat as clean as possible. Fresh fruit, vegetables, etc. Beware of Buffets, Fast Foods and School Lunches: Hidden dangers. Don’t share food and never eat something unless you know EXACTLY what is in it. It is better to error on the side of safe, than sorry. Elizabeth’s rule: If it has more than 5 ingredients and is processed, don't eat it anyway. If it comes in a box or is frozen, it most likely has too many ingredients and many are allergens or just not great for you anyway. As someone with life-threatening food allergies, I don’t risk my life at food buffets, fast food places, baked goods or anywhere where I don’t know exactly what is in the food. Exactly. In a grocery store, shop the perimeter. Each fresh and eat clean. Eat local also when and where possible. 8. Don't give someone allergic, something that was "processed in the plant with an allergen" or "May contain the allergen"
The chance taken isn't worth the potential outcome. 9. Zero Tolerance for Bullying.
It isn't funny or cute to shove a peanut butter or nut product wrapper into someone's backpack who is allergic just to see what happens. It isn't funny to smear peanut butter in the sandwich of someone who is allergic, while they aren't looking. IT CAN CAUSE DEATH. Food Allergies are real and we lose children of all ages. Also, please don't single us out because of food allergies unless we need you to and ask you to so we are safe. An example, I’ve been in a classroom where a holiday celebration was not held due to food allergies. There is nothing worse than a classroom not having an event because of food allergies. Have the event, just change the food or bring your own food. Safety first. Celebrate. Do single us out to inform people of our allergy, the serious nature of the allergy and do remind people in a group setting, such as a classroom, so people are aware of the allergy. All of us are getting more and more used to others being allergic as the numbers continue to go up and it is more common. (sadly) 10. Surround yourself or your child with 50 things you or they can eat easily.
Make them fun foods too. For example, there isn't anything worse than going to the movies with me and everyone is eating M&M's for example (processed with nuts) and I don't have my fun candy. I recently discovered Vermont Nut Free Chocolates and feel like I can have some chocolate fun in my life without having to think twice!! Find things to eat that curb the anxiety levels. 11 Adopt the saying "Alive and Thrive with Food Allergies"
Adopt the saying and remind yourself to thrive. So you know you aren't alone, connect with other people with food allergies to share success stories. The more we know, the safer we all are. The goal is "alive and thrive" with food allergies. Food allergies eat away at self-confidence and add doses of fear and anxiety, so it is important to to pay attention to the mindset and outlook of those with food allergies. 12. Teach the child.
Sadly, when we aren't watching over our children every minute, accidents can occur. I have seen an increased report of teens dying from food allergies. It is a tough age where they don't want to be told what to do, don't want to carry their Epi around etc.. I sat next to a couple on the beach whose 16 year old had shellfish and fish allergies and they had forgotten their Epi-pen. The child was so embarrassed we were even talking about it. But a week ago a teen died from eating a cookie at Wal-mart, for example. Stay safe. Create a food allergy plan and adjust it each year as things, foods and ages change. 13. Recognize signs of food related disorders.
We are prone to food disorders and are prone to bad nutrition and diet, especially as we age and especially as we have a few food allergy emergencies. We tend to be creatures of habit. 14. Recognize the signs of anxiety and fear disorders.
We are prone to these emotional types of disorders. Leading a fear-based life is not healthy for anyone. But when life is so centered around eating and eating is not a positive experience, a routine of fear and anxiety can emerge and take hold. I know first-hand that eating out can be scary. Parties can be scary. Business meetings out to eat can be scary. Vacations can be scary. Anxiety, fear and worry can take control and create a very low-level dark energy a person is coming from. Depression is common also. Any spot where our food has to change from our regular patterns can be scary and even life-threatening if not taken seriously.
I recommend teaching a practice of gratitude and go from a very baseline of gratitude and keep everything in perspective when possible. Food allergies create an opportunity to eat very clean and healthy when a practice of well-being takes hold with gratitude. 15. Prevent others from bullying us.
People often don’t believe we have food allergies and we can be an inconvenience at a party or gathering, dinner event, workplace, school, or other place or event. I've been bullied on airlines, at pageants, at work and more and I'm an adult. It makes me cringe when I hear a child is bullied due to food allergies - especially when other kids are testing the allergy out in disbelief. Love each other.
It has taken me years to tell people I have anaphylaxis. I feared being fired from a job, feared the burden I would place on my future-spouse and so much more. I highly recommend telling people about the allergy, so those close to you can lend a hand in supporting the well-being of the person with the allergies. I think about my family, which is 4 sons ages 15-21 and my husband of 18 years. I think of all they do to keep me safe. I think of some of the vacations we've had where eating out is very dangerous for me. I think of dates to restaurants with my husband. I think about our home and keeping it allergy-free. So much love goes into keeping me safe. Love each other. Sharing your allergies also creates the opportunity to touch a live you might never think of. Chances are someone knows someone with food allergies and you might have life-saving information to share or help someone by chance. 16. Practice Well-Being and Clean Eating.
People can live without peanuts and tree nuts. Inflammation is most likely in motion in some way, if you or someone you know has food allergies. Inflammation is a root source of a lot of disease.
I'm a Food Over Medicine instructor and have used that and a practice of clean-eating to control the inflammation aspects of food allergies for years now. I'm not always perfect at it, but I do try to practice what I preach. I also believe in at least 20 minutes of exercise per day and suggest a meditation type of practice for those with food allergies, especially to curb any emotional disorders. 17. Consider just making the environment entirely peanut and tree nut free, so it is easier.
People can live without peanuts and tree nuts. An allergic person can die as a result of just something as simple as someone eating nuts and touching a surface. It just really isn’t worth a life lost. I'm a strong advocate for making airlines trail-mix and peanuts in a package - free of those allergens. The dust that goes with those items is dangerous. Will we get to our location with airline travel without peanuts and mixed nuts being served? - YES!
Consider making the environment free of those allergens which tend to be the most dangerous. 18. Know that most reactions get worse.
Be exceptionally careful with food allergies, as the reaction does tend to intensify with more exposure to the allergen. For example, my first reaction to peanuts was hives. Subsequent reactions haven taken two Epi-Shots to save my life and a hospital stay. I hear of people saying they got hives from this or that. Understand the next time you are exposed to the allergen, the reaction tends to be more serious. 19. See the allergist, but also trust yourself in addition to the tests.
Be careful with skin testing. There are blood tests and skin tests and I constantly hear, “You only show up as having a slight allergy on the test, but when you eat it you are in Anaphylaxis.” If you eat it and it makes you sick, stop eating it. (see #18 above) 20. Know your allergens: The 8 major foods people are allergic to are: eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy. Peanut is the most famous of the bunch. In my life, tree nuts, such as almonds and walnuts are the key culprits. Other foods such as celery, mustard, cherries, garlic are also common allergic foods.
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