- If you are prescribed an Epi-Pen, take two wherever you go. You have no excuse, when your life is on the line. I tend to keep mine in a pocket in my handbag so it’s not easily lost with the rest of my belongings and really just so anyone can locate it easily if necessary.
- Learn how to use your Epi-pen. Teach all your family and friends on how to use it correctly when required. I have noted the instructions below:
- Pull off blue safety cap
- Hold orange tip approx. 10cm from outer thigh and jab firmly into outer thigh (listen for click)
- DO NOT PRESS THE ORANGE TIP with your finger as if the pen is upside down you will inject yourself in the finger – the orange tip is to press against the thigh which automatically forces the needle into the thigh.
- Hold firmly against thigh for 10 seconds
- Dial 999 – ask for ambulance and state ‘anaphylaxis’
- Unfortunately you are rarely ever 100% risk free of having an allergic reaction so make sure all of your friends and family are aware of the seriousness of your condition. I never stop going on about my allergy to all of my friends!
- Do not let your food allergy stop you from doing normal things. Just take a sensible approach! An allergy specialist once told me you are more likely to be ‘hit by a bus than have an allergic reaction if you are sensible’ about it (I know it’s dramatic, but it’s true!)
- If you are going out for a meal, avoid places that use your allergen in most meals if possible, for example with me being allergic to nuts I do not tend to eat at a Chinese, Indian or Thai restaurant. In my opinion, it’s just not worth the hassle and the effort the chef would have to put in to making sure your dish is allergen free would be a nightmare and time-consuming.
- When you go out for meals, always explain your allergy to the waiter/waitress or chef. Never risk not telling them. If the chef is aware of your allergy then they will do their best to avoid cross contamination and will make sure that your dish does not contain your allergen. I tend to use the line “I can die if I consume a trace of nuts” which tends to emphasize the seriousness of my allergy!
- The dreaded ‘we cannot guarantee statement’ is the words we all hate as allergy sufferers. If a restaurant is doing their best to accommodate my allergy then I will eat there, even if they say ‘we cannot guarantee’ as you have to understand that they are trying to avoid you suing their business which is understandable if they are a small. So if they are doing their best to help then I don’t see it as a problem and you are usually safe. There are new EU laws on food labeling which came out in December 2014 forcing food businesses to label their food and menus correctly emphasizing the allergens. So, I have been hearing the ‘we cannot guarantee’ statement a lot less recently. Also, always ask for an allergen menu if available – many places now provide these.
- If for some reason, a restaurant will not cater for your allergy or they are not being very understanding about it (which does happen), then leave. It’s not even worth it.
- Grocery shopping takes probably twice as long as the average shopper when you have an allergen to avoid. Start to create a list of all of the products that do not contain your allergen. This will speed up your grocery shopping. However, I still recommend you always read the ingredients list as they can change. The best thing to do with grocery shopping is to get raw/fresh ingredients and make your dishes from scratch, however if you’re like me and rarely cook meals from scratch, creating a list of products which do not contain your allergen is beneficial. Again, now with the new EU legislation encouraging food businesses to emphasis allergens, ingredients lists are much easier to read.
- Travelling abroad with an allergy involves a whole new list of tips and advice! The most common problem when travelling with an allergy abroad is the language barrier and the lack of allergy awareness in some countries. My main advice would be to be prepared! Get allergy translated cards, explain the seriousness of your condition to everyone necessary, inform the hotel you’re staying at, find out where the nearest hospital is and create a plan of action if you were to have an allergic reaction.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign has a great website on allergies: http://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/
I hope these tips help anyone with a serious food allergy!