I’m fortunate enough to only suffer from hay fever, but I have friends who have severe allergies to certain foods. Suffering from food allergies can impact your entire lifestyle and the people around you. Food Allergy Research and Education estimates 15 million people suffer from food allergies, which makes shopping more difficult and dining out more hazardous.
In order to best accommodate those with severe allergies, it’s wise to educate ourselves (especially since it’s Allergen Awareness Month!). Here are five helpful hints that will increase your allergy awareness and help those with food allergies stay healthy (and stay within their budget).
1. Learn how to read a food label
Understanding how to interpret food labels is very important to prevent a severe food allergy response. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004 requires that the label of a food declare the presence or protein of a major allergen. The specification of the allergen is listed in two ways—either by parentheses or by using the word “contains” like in the example below.
2. Complete an Allergy Action Plan
Having the correct information such as name, date of birth, symptoms of the allergy, and the treatment plan is incredibly important in the case of an allergic reaction. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology provides a free form which can be auto-filled, printed, and signed by your physician. This is a great form for kids to have at school, daycare, with baby sitters, and for when you’re traveling. Ensuring the correct treatment for a reaction to an allergen can save you an emergency room visit.
3. Find allergy-free foods that fit your budget
According to Earth Balance, 90% of food allergies are caused by only eight foods: dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish, wheat and soy. Purchasing foods that are allergen free–even on sale and with coupons–can be difficult on a budget. However, there are some ways to save on these much needed items.
Ways to save:
- Earth Balance offers a $1.00 coupon for any product here.
- Enjoy Life Foods provides an allergy free facility to make their products, which makes them a go-to company for food allergy sufferers. Their website lists three coupons you can print today!
- Ian’s Natural Food offers a free coupon if you sign up for their newsletter here. Ian’s prides itself on family-friendly meals and provides an online search by allergen to connect you to their products for specific allergies. Chicken nuggets for kids with a wheat allergy? Yes! Non-GMO breadcrumbs? Absolutely. Ian’s is your company.
4. Save money on allergy medications
Score coupons on Benadryl at their website so that you can save on their allergy products. Benadryl is a great antihistamine that’s used to treat mild allergic reactions. Severe allergic reactions or anaphylactic reactions may require an injection of an EpiPen (epinephrine). An EpiPen requires a doctor’s prescription. You can see if you qualify for a $0 co-pay card for your EpiPen prescription here.
5. Travel safely with food allergies
Establishing a safe environment while traveling is of utmost importance when you suffer from food allergies.
What to do:
- Notify the airline ahead of time: If your child has a peanut allergy, ask if peanuts will be served on the flight. If so, ask what precautions the airline has in place for people suffering from peanut allergies. Ask if the airline has a peanut-free zone set aside for allergy sufferers.
- Pack your own food: Preparing your own food to take when traveling will decrease the risk of being exposed to allergens.
- Book a hotel room with its own kitchen: Preparing your own food on vacation will decrease the exposure to food allergens with frequent restaurant visits.
- Communicate with the restaurants you eat at: Ask if the chef will prepare the requested meal free of the food allergens, or find out what menu items are already free of your allergen.
- Locate the nearest hospital in case of emergency: Part of being prepared means having a plan. Knowing the location of the nearest hospital ensures a safe treatment plan in case of an emergency.
- Communicate with your pharmacist prior to traveling: If you must take medication in case of an allergic reaction, have a backup plan in case your medication is lost, damaged, or needs to be refilled. Ask if your prescription can be transferred to a pharmacy in the city where you’re traveling and what that process would be. Write down the instructions and keep them with your medications.