Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

One of the keys to preventing an allergic reaction is to completely avoid the food that causes your symptoms.

  • Don't assume. Always read food labels to make sure they don't contain an ingredient you're allergic to. Even if you think you know what's in a food, check the label. Ingredients sometimes change.

    Food labels are required to clearly list whether they contain any common food allergens. Read food labels carefully to avoid the most common sources of food allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.

  • When in doubt, say no thanks. At restaurants and social gatherings, you're always taking a risk that you might eat a food you're allergic to. Many people don't understand the seriousness of an allergic food reaction and may not realize that a tiny amount of a food can cause a severe reaction in some people.

    If you have any suspicion at all that a food may contain something you're allergic to, steer clear.

  • Involve caregivers. If your child has a food allergy, enlist the help of relatives, baby sitters, teachers and other caregivers. Make sure that they understand how important it is for your child to avoid the allergy-causing food and they know what to do in an emergency.

    It's also important to let caregivers know what steps they can take to prevent a reaction in the first place, such as careful hand-washing and cleaning any surfaces that might have come in contact with the allergy-causing food.

Coping and support

A food allergy can be a source of ongoing concern that affects life at home, school and work. Daily activities that are easy for most families, such as grocery shopping and meal preparation, can become occasions of stress for families and caregivers living with food allergies.

Keep these strategies in mind to help manage your or your child's food allergy-related stress:

  • Connect with others. The opportunity to discuss food allergies and exchange information with others who share your concerns can be very helpful.

  • Many internet sites and nonprofit organizations offer information and forums for discussing food allergies. Some are specifically for parents of children with food allergies. The Food Allergy Research & Education website can direct you to support groups and events in your area.

  • Educate those around you. Make sure family and caregivers, including baby sitters and school staff, have a thorough understanding of your child's food allergy.
  • Address bullying. Children are often bullied because of food allergies at school. Discussing your child's allergy with school personnel greatly reduces your child's risk of being a bullying target.

Prevention

The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to know and avoid foods that cause signs and symptoms. For some people, this is a mere inconvenience, but others find it a greater hardship. Also, some foods — when used as ingredients in certain dishes — may be well-hidden. This is especially true in restaurants and in other social settings.

If you know you have a food allergy, follow these steps:

  • Know what you're eating and drinking. Be sure to read food labels carefully.
  • If you have already had a severe reaction, wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that lets others know that you have a food allergy in case you have a reaction and you're unable to communicate.
  • Talk with your doctor about prescribing emergency epinephrine. You may need to carry an epinephrine autoinjector (Adrenaclick, EpiPen) if you're at risk of a severe allergic reaction.
  • Be careful at restaurants. Be certain your server or chef is aware that you absolutely can't eat the food you're allergic to, and you need to be completely certain that the meal you order doesn't contain it. Also, make sure food isn't prepared on surfaces or in pans that contained any of the food you're allergic to.

    Don't be reluctant to make your needs known. Restaurant staff members are usually more than happy to help when they clearly understand your request.

  • Plan meals and snacks before leaving home. If necessary, take a cooler packed with allergen-free foods when you travel or go to an event. If you or your child can't have the cake or dessert at a party, bring an approved special treat so no one feels left out of the celebration.

If your child has a food allergy, take these precautions to ensure his or her safety:

  • Notify key people that your child has a food allergy. Talk with child care providers, school personnel, parents of your child's friends and other adults who regularly interact with your child. Emphasize that an allergic reaction can be life-threatening and requires immediate action. Make sure that your child also knows to ask for help right away if he or she reacts to food.
  • Explain food allergy symptoms. Teach the adults who spend time with your child how to recognize signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction.
  • Write an action plan. Your plan should describe how to care for your child when he or she has an allergic reaction to food. Provide a copy of the plan to your child's school nurse and others who care for and supervise your child.
  • Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. This alert lists your child's allergy symptoms and explains how others can provide first aid in an emergency.