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Food Allergies: What to Look for and How to Deal

Posted May 24 2013 10:02pm

side-dishes From time to time on Dr. Mommy Online, the contributors post delectable recipes that our readers are welcome and encouraged to try.  With so many delectable choices out there, I thought that it might be a good idea to touch base on the idea of food allergies.

For those people who deal with a food allergy, life is even more about staying informed and making the right choices.  Labels and fine print, often glanced over by others are read with the most care and scrutiny.  Wait staff at restaurants are questioned about ingredients and requests for special accommodations are made.  Calls are even made to the various 1-800 numbers on the back of packages to make sure that the target ingredient is not used in the making of the product, or even made in the same facility.  It is certainly bothersome and frustrating at times not being able to eat the same things as other people, but often it is the only way to maintain good health.

Every so often though, things happen, and the food allergen is encountered. If someone has an allergic reaction around you, it is essential that you know how to recognize what is going on, and what, if anything you can do about it.   Here are some common symptoms of an acute allergic reaction- either to food or another allergen:

* Itching or swelling, especially around the mouth or tongue or throat area.
* Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping
* Hives or eczema
* Trouble breathing
* Tightening of throat
* Sudden drop in blood pressure
* In some cases anaphylaxis

If you see yourself or anyone around you having these symptoms after being exposed to something, the most important thing you can do is remain calm.  If the person is able to communicate, find out if they know about the allergy and what they take for it in emergencies.  Many people with food allergies will carry medicine such as anti-histamines, or an auto-injector pen containing epinephrine (sometimes called an epi-pen), which should be used in more serious cases.  If the allergic reaction is a rash, swelling or hives, in addition to anti-histamines you can help by adding a cold compress or cool rag on the affected area to help reduce the swelling.

If the person’s symptoms are more serious, including symptoms of anaphylactic shock (severe swelling of mouth, tongue or throat, trouble speaking, high anxiety, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, tightness in chest or throat area), it is critical to get medical help right away.  If they have an anaphylaxis action plan or other emergency measures, follow them directly.  If you must inject epinephrine into someone, inject it into the outer thigh area, and avoid injecting into a vein or buttocks muscles.  Basically if you place your arms at your sides and make a loose fist, where the fist hits your leg is where you want to inject.

If the person stops breathing, perform CPRYou do know how to perform CPR on both adults and children, right?

Once the scary part is over, and the reaction has subsided, it’s important for the person who had the reaction to be monitored for at least the next 24 hours.  On rare occasions, a secondary reaction can occur at a later time.
Food allergies, if you’ll pardon the expression, are nothing to sneeze at.  However, with proper preparation, and a calm, cool head in times of emergencies, they can be handled.

About Laura Seeber ( 26 Posts )

Laura Seeber is a geologist, environmental professional, writer, and outdoor and nature enthusiast. Born just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Laura has spent the majority of her life hiking through the forest, descending into caves, climbing over boulders and up cliffs, navigating river rapids, and writing and blogging about her adventures. She currently resides in Illinois and travels country in search of the next great outdoor activity or adventure.

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