Peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish, soy… the list goes on, and for those unfortunate enough to have a food allergy, these foods can show up in what seems to be a totally unrelated item. If your child has been diagnosed with a severe food allergy, and now you have an EpiPen in hand, you may be stressed on how to keep her safe in a world that seems to be contaminated with the food she’s allergic to. Here are a few tips to help her stay safe and help you ease the worry.
Top eight allergens:
Once you’ve dealt with allergy testing, find out as much as you can about the particular allergen. The top eight allergens are required to be labeled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
This will make it very easy for you to pick up an item and scan the ingredient list. Manufacturers will label their foods in a number of ways, however. Some will simply bold or highlight the allergen in the list itself, and others will list them separately. They may also use unique verbiage, such as, “Manufactured on the same/shared equipment as…” or “May contain…” Ask your doctor if your child needs to avoid foods that “may contain” her allergen. Often, the answer is yes.
If your child is allergic to food that is not in the “Top Eight,” it will be more challenging. You will have to read every single ingredient to look for the presence of the allergen.
Don’t assume that once you determine a food is safe, it will always be safe. Recipes can be changed, formulas can be altered and new ingredients can be added. You will have to get into the habit of checking every single time.
Many restaurants have a list of foods that contain or may contain the “Top Eight” allergens. You can often find those on the internet in advance, or you can phone the company’s headquarters (or the owner in the case of a smaller operation). They should also be able to tell you if there is the risk of cross-contamination.
Keep Benadryl (or another recommended antihistamine) with you at all times, with a dosage syringe or cup. And learn to use your EpiPen. They come in a package that includes a trainer, so learn how to use it, and if your child is old enough, train him as well. Daycare workers and school personnel should also be trained on its use, as should anyone who will be with your child in your absence.
A food allergy diagnosis can be scary and stressful, but as you learn to read labels and keep prepared with your emergency medication, you will find yourself taking charge of your child’s allergy and teaching him how to keep safe.
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