If you have food allergies, you know eating even a bit of your trigger food can cause a reaction, from mild (hives, itchy mouth) to severe (trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, even loss of consciousness). The only prevention: Avoid the trigger food. And that’s easier said than done.
In one of the latest efforts to manage food allergies, UCLA researchers created a portable device — still in prototype stage — that attaches to your smartphone and analyzes food right on the spot for allergens. Until that’s in the real world, here are some tips on avoiding allergens when you or loved ones are away from home:
Dining out: Talk to everyone and ask a lot of questions. Your server, the chef and even the restaurant manager should know about your food allergy. You should know exactly what’s in your dish and how it was prepared.
Explain cross-contact danger: Some studies say more than 20 percent of restaurant staffers think picking an allergen (nuts, for example) off a dish renders it safe. Your best bets: Order simple options (baked potato or steamed vegetables) and skip dessert (often a source of hidden allergens). Avoid buffets and fried foods, where cross-contact is high.
On a plane: Forget airline food (pack your own) and sanitize your seat and tray table. Passengers with nut allergies who took these precautions had significantly lower odds of a reaction, reports a new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. Also, don’t use airline pillows or blankets and consider telling those seated nearby about your food allergy.
At camp: The number of kids who suffer from food allergies has increased dramatically in recent years, a new government report shows. Whether your little one is at day camp or away for the summer, give counselors and key personnel a written plan describing medications and instructions in case of a reaction.
Prep your youngsters to know which foods are safe (or aren’t), never to trade food, and when to alert an adult.
Always: Read labels carefully every time. Carry medication such as epinephrine.
— The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.