by Finessa Rassel, ATC, LAT

Most people enjoy a good meal, right? The way our sight, smell, and taste is triggered with an intricately-prepared recipe gives our palettes a great sensory adventure. However, for those with food allergies, the sense of adventure takes on a little different meaning.

Food allergies are defined as an immune reaction to proteins in certain foods. These reactions can range from irritating to deadly (anaphylaxis). Currently, there is no cure for a food allergy, and the only proven effective treatment is to avoid the food that triggers the response. The best defense against food allergic reactions is education and preparation. Here are some tips on how you can [R] Review your Hazards and stay PREPARED!

The Top 9

What are these foods? While there are other foods or ingredients people can be allergic to, the most common food allergies are to the following products: milk, peanuts, eggs, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, and sesame.

Read It Before You Eat It

Always Pay Attention to the Food Label! The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 mandates products disclose when major allergens are present on the food label. This is known as a “Contains” statement. Some manufacturers also include separate statements on the label, including “May Contain,” “Made on Shared Equipment,” and “Produced in a Facility.” Be aware when purchasing or consuming a product with known food allergies that the two aforementioned statements are voluntary and do not denote how much of the allergen is present.

Symptom Watch

When faced with a potential food allergy after ingestion, early symptoms can include: hives; flushed skin or rashes; tingling or itchy sensations in the mouth; face, tongue, or lip swelling; vomiting and/or diarrhea; abdominal cramps; coughing or wheezing; dizziness and/or lightheadedness; swelling of the vocal cords or throat; difficulty breathing; or loss of consciousness.

If you suspect a food allergy… See a qualified medical professional. Self-diagnosing can lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions and deficiencies. They can also prescribe appropriate medication (e.g. epinephrine) and instruct you on how to properly use it.

If you have a known food allergy… Have an action plan! The recent Emergency PREPAREDness 101 Digest article promotes how you can be ready in an emergency. An allergic reaction to food certainly qualifies! Re-reference that article as needed and develop your own emergency action plan (EAP)! You should also have at least two doses of epinephrine on-hand. Set electronic reminders of when your injector expires and when to renew your prescription.

Symptom Watch

Preparing an at-home meal for someone with a food allergy? Avoid cross contamination cooking at home by using different utensils to prepare food for the allergic person. Also ensure all dishes are thoroughly washed in hot soapy water between uses.

Or perhaps you’re dining out with an allergy?

A Chef’s Card is a great way to communicate with restaurant staff which foods you must avoid. You can access a free template here.

Ensure those food adventures stay safe and recognize those hazards. Bon appétit!

Finessa Rassel, ATC, LAT || Finessa is a Certified Athletic Trainer in Reno, NV. She grew up in Missouri and attended college at Truman State University. She obtained her Master’s in Athletic Training and is pursuing further education in dietetics. She likes to spend her free time playing tennis, traveling, and hanging out with her friends.

Be sure to check out our other blogs for further injury prevention education and tips for the industrial athlete from Work Right NW!