What precautions should I take if I have food allergies?

Make sure that an accurate diagnosis has been made. Recent expert panel guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of food allergy in the United States underscore the importance of proper diagnosis. Make sure to work with your doctor, preferably a board certified allergist, to make sure that you know what foods need to be avoided and how to manage symptoms and allergic reactions.

I believe that people with food allergy should be able to do what everyone else does except for eating the food to which they are allergic. However, keeping safe by avoiding the food that you're allergic to is not simple and requires a lot of education. Briefly, areas of special education about food avoidance include reading ingredient labels on manufactured products, understanding how to get safe meals in a restaurant, understanding food avoidance at home including avoiding cross contact of foods with allergens, and, for children, special issues for schools and camps. 

The other major issue with living with food allergy is to learn how to recognize symptoms and treat them. The primary treatment for a severe allergic reaction is epinephrine which, for people with severe allergies, is carried at all times as a self injector. Talk to your doctor about when and how to use this life-saving device. For children, an adult must be knowledgeable about recognizing and treating symptoms. Consider obtaining medical identification jewelry as well. Sometimes living with a severe food allergy can take a nutritional, social and emotional toll on the individual and family. Be sure to talk to your doctor about this as well, to consider advice from dietitians, mental health professionals, and other resources.

Additional resources are available through the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, Food Allergy Initiative, and the Consortium of Food Allergy Research.

Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

Strict Avoidance is the key to preventing a food allergic reaction.

  • Become educated about your food allergies
  • Stay vigilant-always read labels of foods, ask questions when eating out to avoid traces of allergenic foods and cross-contamination
  • Never take chances
  • Keep emergency allergy medication with you at all times
  • Consider wearing a medical alert ID

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.