Food allergies and sensitivities are on the rise. Almost everyone knows someone who has problems with at least one food. The most common food allergies are to milk, wheat, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish. All of these allergies can have serious consequences.
Know the aliases
The trick to protecting yourself and your friends from these foods is reading labels closely, especially for their other names. Soy has many different forms and many different names. For instance, MSG is a soy product. The ingredient casien is a milk product and appears in a lot of foods, even meats. Even ice cream can contain wheat products. And not only ingredients, but how and where foods are prepared should be a concern. Cross contamination occurs in factories as well as home kitchens.
Be a supportive friend
You can be an extra set of eyes for your friend. If you’re shopping with a food allergic roommate, check the labels as you go. Out at a restaurant you could be the first to ask if the trigger food is handled in the kitchen taking some of the pressure and attention away from your allergic friend.
Know what it is exactly
The best place to start is by finding out exactly what your friend is allergic and how severe his reactions have been in the past. Reactions can change though so be prepared for an allergic response to be more severe than you anticipate. Sometimes reactions can be a tingling in the mouth with an outbreak of hives. Sometimes reactions happen right away and sometimes they take a few hours. The most dangerous reaction is anaphylactic shock where the response to the allergen is so severe it can be life threatening. Find out if your friend carries an injector like an EpiPen and where she keeps it. If she is comfortable talking about it, ask her to show you how it’s used. If she is ever unable to respond herself, you could step in and use the injector, possibly saving her life.
Always take the allergy seriously
Food allergies are serious. Don’t tease or taunt. Don’t tempt or share. Be willing to give up the allergic food when you are around your friend without complaining. If you have questions, speak up! Friends always have each other’s back.