This is the number one rule that you must ALWAYS follow, no exceptions. – Carry at least 2 epi-pens at ALL times. Personally, I always try to carry 4 with me, 2 in my personal handbag and 2 in my carrier bag/sports bag/school bag or whatever I have with me. I place 2 epi-pens together in a see-through zip-lock plastic bag and roll it up along with a white sticky label stating, ‘Inject the thigh and call an ambulance’. Although the epi-pen injector states this itself, my logic is in a situation where one person may be injecting, others can concentrate on the next step stated on the bag as the auto-injector is already being used. A zip-lock plastic bag is very useful as 2 epi-pens are always kept together, can be moved easily from bag to bag and are always visible if someone is searching for it when needed. It prevents them from liquid damage and is already packed and ready to go through any security in airports, museums or public buildings.
2. Anti-histamine tablets and Inhalers
I have very mild reactions to types of food, pollen, dust, etc so I always carry a strip of anti-histamine tablets and inhalers in my purse as I suffer from asthma. In certain situations, my eyes may get irritated or itchy, my nose can become blocked or runny, I become wheezy in my chest and I know these symptoms are due to a mild reaction to something in the environment or something I have touched or eaten.
If possible, prepare all meals yourself in a safe, clean environment that has no risk of cross-contamination with allergen traces. Buy individual ingredients to make meals from scratch instead of mixes that are pre-made that may contain spices/sauces/dressings/added ingredients. Buy basic plain food that you can spice up yourself with food that is safe for you.
4. Avoid certain products
Avoid certain products such as, granola, granola bars, pastries, dessert squares, curry mixes, dishes containing sauces, UNLESS made by yourself or in a nut-free environment as these products often contain traces of allergens or have been manufactured in an area that handles allergens. Some products may state that they are nut free but they same company may have a range of products that contain the allergen so read the instructions at all times. Be careful with scooped ice cream and toppings as although each flavour is in different containers, often the same utensil is used to scoop all flavours for convenience or the gloves are not changed by staff when preparing a new order.
5.Do your Research
If your planning to eat out in an area, do your research to find restaurants that may satisfy your dietary requirements. Phone/email/visit or use the internet to look through menus of restaurants to see if there is allergy info or if any dishes/desserts contain the allergen- this will tell if it is stored in the kitchen and therefore there may be a risk of cross contamination. If there is a restaurant already booked, phone/email/visit them to enquire about their allergy protocol and what they can do to satisfy your needs.
6. Inform staff about food allergies and watch reaction
At the restaurant, ask to speak with the manager, and
chef if possible, about your food allergies. Make eye-contact and explain the
severity of your allergy when you speak with them. Watch their reaction, they could
freeze up and show uncertainty of how to respond or they may know how to deal
with these requests and confidently inform you of their allergy precautions.
I’ve found that the most accommodating restaurants are proud of
their ability to serve food-allergic customers, with staff members who are
enthusiastic about explaining their food allergy policies and confident in
answering your questions. If you do not feel reassured by their response,
strongly consider leaving and finding another restaurant.
7. Ask open-ended questions
Ask open-ended questions where the staff must seek out the correct answer on site from the chef instead of yes/no answers. Such as what cooking oil do you use? Or what sauces/dips do you have for the chips? Using this process the staff aren’t inclined to just answer yes/no without greater investigation. You should not be embarrassed to ask about the ingredients list, food preparation or cross-contamination risks, for example if different utensils are used for each food type or anything else related to this.
Dine at off peak hours when possible; the restaurant will be less busy, the staff should have time double-check ingredients and allergen lists and can take precautions with your order.
9. Hidden Labels
Be aware of hidden labels and ensure the restaurant is aware of hidden names for allergens. It is advised to keep a card in your purse displaying all the possible names for your allergen and show it to staff/chefs so they can check. Also inform staff of hidden places for your allergen that they may be unaware of, for example nuts in dips/sauces, gluten in certain soy sauces.
10. Be Confident
It is important to remain confident and persistent when requesting your food allergy needs. You may come across as fussy but inform them of the severity of your allergy and that you must take these precautions for your own sake. It can become stressful if the staff doesn’t understand your dietary requirements, so it is worth having prepared what you can say in a clear and polite manner-