Food allergies are more common in children, however many adults still have food allergies and need to remain vigilant to avoid having serious allergic reactions. At least 15% of people with food allergies develop the condition after the age of 18.
The most common food allergens include:
- Tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and Brazil nuts)
- Fish and Shellfish
Managing your allergy
If you have a serious food allergy and your doctor has recommended it, the most important action is to carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times. If you mistakenly come into contact with an allergen and you begin to have an allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, access to an epinephrine auto-injector is vital.
Allergens can be present in unexpected places, so it is best to be prepared with a course of action in case you come into contact.
However, there are various steps and strategies you can use to prevent having to administer medication. Strict avoidance of products containing allergens is essential, but not always that easy.
Food labels and packaging
One of the most effective ways to avoid consuming or coming in contact with allergens is to check all food labels and packaging. Most internationally distributed foods list allergen information on their packaging or websites. Even if the product itself doesn’t contain an allergen, it may have been produced in a factory alongside products that do contain it. Many products will also clarify if products could be cross-contaminated, such as being produced in a factory that contains nuts, during production.
Be wary of accidentally contaminating food when cooking. If you keep ingredients you are allergic to at home for other family members, keep them in a special place in the kitchen. It is also very important to keep your food preparation areas and cooking utensils clean and allergen free. Another helpful tip is to color code your cutting boards and separate any kitchen tools that may be used by other members of the family.
Having food allergies can sometimes feel restrictive when eating out, but a good restaurant should be able to accommodate you. Call ahead to inform them of your allergy or speak to your waiter before ordering. You could also ask the chef to identify which meals contain allergens, or if they are able to modify certain dishes to remove them.
Friends and family
Always make sure that family and friends are aware of your food allergy so that if you are sharing food or eating in their home they do not mistakenly give you food containing allergens. It’s also a good idea that your close family and friends know how to use an epinephrine auto-injector in the case of an emergency.
Wearing medical identification can help make emergency responders or people around you aware of your food allergies. If you do go into allergic anaphylaxis, those helping you will be able to identify the problem a lot quicker if they see your identification. For example, it is possible to get customized bracelets that indicate your allergy or a specially-made card you can carry in your purse or wallet.
It is important to remember that with preparation, enjoying food doesn’t have to be difficult when you have a food allergy. If you are not sure what is causing your food allergy, please see a specialist who can perform tests to identify which foods you may have adverse reactions to. As you learn more about managing your allergy, it will become easier to identify dangerous situations and avoid risks.