Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Taking Care of Your Food Allergies AND Your Health May 10, 2022

There are a few simple things that everyone should be doing to protect their health. And while they benefit all, they are particularly important for people with food allergies. These activities aren’t just good for your well-being, they are also important to help prevent serious allergic reactions.

GET CONSISTENTLY GOOD SLEEP.

Yes, the elusive sleep recommendation… But studies show that sleep deprivation can lower a person’s threshold – meaning, the amount of allergen it takes to trigger a reaction. The lower a person’s threshold, the less allergen it takes to set off a reaction. Experts recommend getting a consistent amount of sleep every night by turning off devices an hour before bed; sleeping in a dark, cool room; and waking up at the same time every day ((sigh) yes, even on weekends…).

REDUCE EMOTIONAL STRESS.

Easier said than done, we know. Excess stress (and who doesn’t have that these days?!) also lowers your threshold and escalates potential reactions. Take care of your mental health by connecting with friends; getting out in nature; paying attention to your physical health (exercise, eat well, etc); engaging in yoga, meditation, or other relaxation techniques (like art, breathing and imagery exercises); taking breaks from social media and news when needed; and learning to say “no” to reduce feeling overwhelmed.

HYDRATE.

Water is critically important to the functioning of our bodies – and when they aren’t hydrated, it can wreak havoc. For someone with food allergies, dehydration can affect lung function, heart rate and core temperature – all of which are known factors in more serious reactions, known as anaphylaxis. You may be familiar with the “8×8 Rule”: every adult should drink eight cups of eight ounces of water a day. That amount might vary a bit based on where you live, your health, diet and what activities you do. One thing experts recommend is sipping on water even when you’re not thirsty to replenish all that you lose throughout the day.

LIMIT ALCOHOL USE.

Moderation is best. Alcohol dehydrates the drinker and can reduce threshold, triggering serious reactions faster. Alcohol can also decrease a person’s ability to make good decisions. People with food allergies have to be careful about what they eat and drink and they need to be able to evaluate their health in case of accidental exposure.

GET BETTER CONTROL OF YOUR ASTHMA.

It’s probably been on your to-do list anyway. Not being able to breathe clearly is no fun. It’s not only uncomfortable, it also dangerous for your health. Uncontrolled asthma can make allergic reactions worse by speeding up dangerous swelling in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Now is a great time to speak with your healthcare provider about lifestyle changes and other ways you can improve your asthma treatment.

ALWAYS CARRY TWO.

You can’t plan for accidental exposures, but you can be prepared for a reaction by always carrying two epinephrine auto-injectors. It is critical to carry a set with you (rather than leaving them in the car, a locker or at home) because occasionally a reaction may be persistent and require two doses of epinephrine before the patient reaches medical care. And rarely, devices are misused or misfire – so having a back-up is always a good idea.


There’s no day like today to begin making positive lifestyle changes. Experts say it takes about three weeks to turn change into a new habit – so be patient and positive with yourself, making one good decision at a time. Talk to your doctor about these and other ways to improve both your health and your food allergy outcomes at your next visit.

 

Managing Food Allergy Anxiety April 20, 2017

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According to a study out of the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, children with food allergies are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their non-allergic peers.  And, the more foods they are allergic to, the more likely they are to internalize those feelings of helplessness and vulnerability.

 

How does anxiety present itself in children?  What are the signs parents should look for?

Because children often lack the ability to identify the source of their stress and articulate their feelings clearly, anxiety tends to present in a number of different ways.  Some of these include:

  • stomach aches
  • headaches
  • clinging
  • avoidance: not wanting to go to events or school
  • changes in sleep and eating
  • tearfulness
  • daily persistent worries

 

Periods in a child’s development also make them more susceptible to anxious feelings; such as ages 7-10 when kids are old enough to understand serious health risks but are still too young to manage their fears efficiently.  Similarly, pre-adolescents (tweens ages 10-14) typically develop an awareness of germs, disasters and things that could possibly go wrong, making this age range primed for feelings of nervousness and worry.

 

What can parents do to help their children manage their anxiety?

  1. First and foremost, parents need to model calm. (More on that below…)
  2. When speaking about their food allergies, frame risk in a positive way.  For example, “reading ingredient labels, asking questions and carrying your epinephrine will help keep you safe;” “eating peanuts may make you feel sick;” “having regular cheese can make it hard for you to swallow and breathe…”.  DO NOT talk to kids about death, dying or their mortality.
  3. Give them words for their emotions so that they can express themselves and relieve some of that private, pent-up worry.
  4. Validate their feelings.  Anxiety about food allergies can spill over into more generalized anxiety.  Their fears and perspectives are real to them.
  5. Tell your child a story about a time you had anxiety.  And, if possible, maybe something you did to overcome it!
  6. Explain to your child that everyone experiences some level of anxiety.  It’s a normal part of being human.  But when it becomes overwhelming we need to talk about it to help let it go.
  7. Encourage your daughter or son to socialize with friends and family.  Being with others is a great distraction and reminds them of the support that surrounds them.
  8. Teach them skills to relieve stress, such as breathing techniques, getting out to exercise, or compartmentalizing the discussion of food allergy worries to 10 minutes a day and then moving on.  These are important techniques for life!
  9. Reassure your child that they are in good hands, both at home AND away, like at school, at grandma’s, etc.  Kids need to know they are secure and that those in charge know what they’re doing.
  10. Empower them!  Practice what to say to their friends, family, teachers, and restaurant staff about their food allergies.  Teach them what to do in case they suspect they’re having an allergic reaction.  Work together to read ingredient labels and manufacturing warnings.  Allow them to ask questions at the doctor’s office. The more capable they feel, the more in control they will be!

 

What about us?  

As food allergy parents, we – too – are familiar with the stress and anxiety related to the management and realities of food allergies.  It is as, OR MORE, important that we manage our own anxious feelings as parents so that we can be a model of calm and security for our kids.

 

Anxiety – in all forms – clouds good decision-making (it’s science!).  Keeping worries in check allows us to be more effective parents by approaching decisions and assessing situations with cautiousness and calm.

 

When adults feel out of control, they tend to overcompensate.  This primal need to protect our children kicks into overdrive, leaving parents spinning their wheels in a world they cannot sanitize or make safe enough.

 

Kids tend to absorb the perspective of their parents and they can become frightened if adults around them are very stressed or scared.  Therefore, it’s critical for parents to adopt a healthy attitude towards food, food allergies and the greater world to help their children manage their own food allergies.

 

What can we do to keep ourselves calm?

  1. Find support.  Connect with other food allergy parents or spend time with understanding friends.  Socializing reminds us that we’re not alone with our concerns.  Feel free to use Allergy Shmallergy’s Facebook page to post questions or connect with like-minded parents.
  2. Arm yourself with information.  Familiarize yourself with food labeling laws, causes and symptoms of a reaction, and your emergency action plan.  If you can, learn to cook!  In short, empower yourself!
  3. Adopt simple solutions for your food allergy hurdles.  Resist the pressure to be the perfect baker, for example, and focus on surrounding your child with LOVE.
  4. Trust in others who’ve shown understanding towards food allergies.  A lot of food allergy parents only feel their child is safe when he or she in in their total control.  It’s important to let go a little and let others help.  If you’re at a friend’s house, let the host find a safe snack  – you can still approve the ingredient list, but it will give you a window into their decision-making abilities.  Let your child’s teacher become his or her food allergy-ally while they’re at school.  Every child needs a village.  More importantly, every parent needs one too.
  5. Prepare and approach food-related situations with CAUTION without assuming CATASTROPHE.
  6. Get out and exercise.  Talk a nature walk.  Have a date night.  Be sure to find outlets and activities that bring you joy.

 

 

 

 

 
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