Whether you're brand new to a food allergy or Celiac Disease diagnosis or you've been at it for a while, it never hurts to review some basics for ways to manage and May is the perfect time since it's Food Allergy and Celiac Awareness Month. Every May on our social media, we post different tips and thoughts and in this blog post we'll distill them into our top 10 list. In no particular order, here are our top tips:
1. Don't leave the house without your auto-injectors. It's important to not only have them, but to make sure that they aren't expired, or damaged by heat.
2. One auto-injector is good, but two is better! If you are able to, please stock up on two auto-injectors and ensure that you keep a close eye on their expiration dates. Don't forget that while epinephrine is a life-saving substance, sometimes one auto-injector isn't enough to save someone who is experiencing anaphylaxis.
3. If you are in a situation without your auto-injectors where there is food and drink, please don't consume anything! Even if you are in an environment that you trust, anything can happen.
4. Your safety is more important than social propriety. You are absolutely allowed to leave a situation where you do not feel safe or comfortable. Trust your gut.
5. Be loud and be proud. Food allergies and Celiac Disease are a part of who you are, and that's great! The people who are lucky enough to be a part of your life need to know how to keep you safe. Anyone who has your best interests at heart will be open to listening and learning.
6. Set boundaries and lay out your expectations clearly and concisely. It is important to advocate for your needs. The more open you are, the more people will learn.
7. Don't be afraid to educate those around you. No one can change their thoughts or behavior if they are not given the opportunity to learn. It can be exhausting to constantly educate those around you about the severity and symptoms of your Celiac Disease or food allergies, but it is so worth it! Not only does it benefit you, but it will also benefit anyone that they meet in the future. It can be daunting to speak up, but in the end it will help to spread empathy and awareness. Put up signs, posters, social media posts, and talk about it!
8. When reading labels, always be on the lookout for the latin/medical names as well as synonyms for your food allergens. For example: chickpeas are also called garbanzo beans. It's not always enough to know the common names for your allergens, you should also know the Latin terminology as well when it comes to medicines and supplements. The internet is your friend, and should be used whenever you aren't sure about an ingredient or additive.
9. Always remember to double-check the ingredient lists of products that you purchase. Not all companies advertise ingredient changes; it is up to you to make sure that you are vigilant! Make sure that you check the entire package for "may contain" statements - companies may choose to add these voluntarily and therefore may put them anywhere on the package where they fit. Pro tip: major allergens are often marked in bold ink, or are listed at the bottom of the ingredient list but note that you can't always depend on this.
10. Use the available resources! Consider joining a support group on your favorite social media site or in your community. Not only will you learn the ins-and-outs of living with food allergies in your area, you'll also meet lots of like-minded people who understand what it's like to be constantly vigilant.
Do you have any tips and tricks of your own? We'd love to hear from you!
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