So, you're allergic to a food. Now what?! No need to panic. You CAN learn how to manage your allergy. Here are some tips to help keep you safe:
Learn the scientific names used for listing foods on labels. For example, casein is one of many words that mean milk. If you need help, talk to your parents, your doctor, or call FAAN at (800) 929-4040.
Read the labels on all foods, all the time – how else will you know what's in your food? Don't eat food that doesn't have a label!
Make sure you know how and when to use your medicine if you have a reaction. If your doctor says you need to carry medicine, such as EpiPen® or Twinject®, be sure to have it with you wherever you go. If you have any questions about your medicines, ask your doctor.
You may want to keep a "food allergy medicine kit." This can be a bag (available from FAAN), a waist pack, or a small backpack that holds your medicine, the name and phone number of someone to call in case of an emergency, and any notes from your doctor in case you have a reaction.
Just because a food looks safe doesn't mean it is. We've found weird ingredients in the craziest places. We've heard of peanut butter in chili and hot chocolate, pecans in barbecue sauce, and milk and soy in deli meats, just to name a few! Ask questions about ingredients before you eat anything.
Sharing food with your friends is risky. How do you know if the food is safe? Your friend's cupcake may look good, but if it has something you are allergic to, it could make you feel very sick. The best policy is: don't trade food!
When was the last time you practiced using your epinephrine medicine (EpiPen® or Twinject®)?
You can get a trainer, which allows you and your friends to practice using an auto-injector. They look just like the real thing, but they don't have a needle or medicine, and they are re-useable so everyone can practice over and over again. Ask your doctor or parents about how to get one.
Teach your friends How to Be a PAL: Protect A Life™ from Food Allergies. Tell them which foods you need to avoid and what happens when you have a reaction. Also show them how to use your medicine so they can help you if you're having a reaction.
Remember, reactions are never planned. Learning how to handle them in advance is the best thing to do. Ask your parents and your doctor to help you create a "What if…" plan.
Think about different situations you might find yourself in. What if you were having a reaction away from home?
Who would you tell?
Who would call your parents?
What medicine would you take?