December 13th 2014 marked a rather large milestone when looking at food allergies and anaphylaxis. A new legislation was introduced which primarily means that places serving food have to provide information about their food and any potential food allergens. This blog post shall be focusing on something which is a very difficult challenge when dealing with food allergies, and has been made slightly easier with the new legislation in place, eating out.
Eating out is something which is considered a treat in the majority of people's lives, however for someone with a food allergy it's often more hard work than it's worth so many people with food allergies avoid eating out however, this does not have to be the case. It is more difficult trying to find somewhere classified as "safe" when eating out but this does not mean that you have to avoid it altogether. Over time you learn where is good to eat and where you should probably avoid. I quickly learned that a simple meal out with food allergies is no simple task. After being diagnosed with a severe nut allergy places like: Chinese, Indian, Thai were completely off the menu as for the majority these food outlets use nut oil to cook their food in. Even places like McDonald's could potentially prove a risk due to their desserts. Here are some of my top tips when dealing with eating out and a food allergy.
1. Make sure to carry all medication
I think is this probably the most important advice I could give regarding this subject. It's one thing to find somewhere safe but it's another to be carrying medication. Even if you know somewhere is safe for you to eat you need to carry medication with you because the reality is you are better being safe than sorry. You do not want to end up in a situation where you need your medication but it is at home or in the car.
2. Check allergy advice
I have found that even though sometimes staff within food outlets can be clueless regarding allergies for the most part food places will have some sort of allergy advice. This may be online or in the form of a folder/booklet in the place itself. It's important to always check this advice even if you have eaten something before as eating places can change their suppliers or the way they cook something without warning and there might not be any outward sign of this so it is a really good idea to double check the ingredients. This can often seem like a very tedious task, particular when you are a young adult as you do not want to seem different. I often viewed it this way when I was first diagnosed with allergies however I soon came to realise that I would much rather prefer spending a few minutes checking allergy advice than having to go through calling 999 to a restaurant.
3. Make sure anyone you're eating out with is aware of your allergies
In case anything were to happen it is a good idea to prior warn those you are eating out with about your allergies. You do not have to go into massive detail about it as the idea is not to scare the other person/people but to bring awareness to them. This is particularly important if you struggle with contact allergies as it lets the other person/people know to avoid your allergen at all costs to help you to hopefully stop an allergic reaction occurring.
4. Ask for your meal to be made first
When out and about I always ask if my meal can be made before other people's. This is not because I feel I am a priority in receiving my food it is to try and avoid my allergens at all costs. I have found that eating places seem okay with this (for the most part this is in actual restaurants rather than fast food places).
5. Let your server know about your allergies
Explain to the waiting staff that you have allergies and what they are. This is another good step in helping stay away from any potential problems. Often the person will write it down and make the kitchen staff aware. I have also had occasions where they have had the chef come out and speak to me in order to try and make sure everything is clear and I am okay with what they are doing. This also makes the staff aware that washing their hands before preparing your food or cooking it away from everything else if possible may be a good idea.
6. Have medic alert jewellery
No one wants to be in a life threatening situation however this can be a serious life-saver if one unfortunately occurs. It can often do the speaking if you are unable to. Some medic alert warnings come with wallet cards where you can go into more detail about things such as your next of kin, address, date of birth, allergies and medication. This can seriously help medical staff when treating you as often allergic reactions can cause throat swelling and/or breathing issues which makes it difficult to talk. Even when others are with you it can be hard to rely on them to relay all the information to emergency staff as people panic and may not be able to remember everything.