If you are feeling overwhelmed about where to begin, you are not alone! Let me first comfort you by saying that information will provide you with strength. The more you learn, the less helpless you will feel. If you're unsure of where to start, here are four things you can do right now to get your feet on the ground.
1. Educate Yourself on Food Allergy Basics. Don't let this scare or intimidate you - start reading. Take in everything you can about your particular food allergy, anaphylaxis, the use of epinephrine, and how to keep your family safe. While this subject can be frightening, what's truly dangerous is NOT knowing this crucial information.
Here are two links from Food Allergy Reserach Education's (FARE) website that provide an extremely thorough overview on food allergy:
2. Find a GOOD Allergist. Our general practitioners and pediatricians are invaluable, but they are gatekeepers. Their jobs are to provide an initial diagnosis and then lead us in the right direction. Specialists eat, breath and sleep their particular discipline, and when it comes to managing your day-to-day life with food allergies and looking into the future at therapies and research, you need an expert on your side. Whether you go with your pediatrician's referral or a friend's recommendation, take your time, ask as many questions as possible... and then follow your gut. We had to make a switch in allergists before we found the right fit for our family, and the patience and diligence it took to find that perfect match was well worth it.
This search tool from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology's website can help you locate allergists in your area: http://allergist.aaaai.org/find/
3. Learn to Read Labels. I can't stress the importance of knowing your way in, over, around and through a food label. Thankfully, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling & Consumer Protection Act (FALCP) in 2004, which requires all manufacturers in the United States to clearly disclose when one of the top eight allergens (dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish) is used as an ingredient in a food product. But, this law does not require that companies indicate whether food has been processed on the same equipment or in the same plant as a particular allergen, even though some manufacturers chose to disclose this information. This, and the fact that the law only requires clear labeling for the top eight allergens, makes it tricky. So, educate yourself. Learn now to read a food label and understand the verbiage used so that you can make the safest choices possible for your family.
See the following articles from Food Allergy Awareness & Action Team's (FAACT) website for more information about FALCPA and how to navigate food labels.
4. Hook Up with a Support System. As with any challenge in life, having a support system in place can mean the difference between simply surviving difficulties or thriving in spite of them. Get connected with a group of people that truly understands what you are going through. There are food allergy groups in communities (both large and small) all over the country, but we are fortunate to live in age of the Internet and Facebook... there are food allergy families gathering everywhere online! Do a search and get connected. I promise you will be so grateful.
FARE's website has a search engine that you can use to find a support group near you: https://www.foodallergy.org/support-groups
Or, you can visit our blog's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/allergydish/ and connect online with fellow readers like you!