Though it is easier to stay safe at work if your food allergy is known by co-workers, every situation is different.
You may want to consider your boss and the unique dynamics of your workplace before saying something. No one is required by law to let others know about their allergy.
However, it is likely that most non-allergic employees will want to know whether someone they work with has a life-threatening allergy, and what to do in an emergency.
Nine Tips For Avoiding Reactions At Work
- Consider posting signs in your workplace’s shared eating areas about food allergy risks – with the employer’s permission.
- Put an allergy reminder (a sign) in your work space. You might even try a bit of humor. One employee put a sign on his office door reading, “Remember, no nuts allowed except for you.”
- If special work or social events are being planned, tell the planners about your allergies. You might also consider becoming the event planner so you can choose the menu, snacks and event locations.
- When going to special events, meetings or conferences outside your home office, research the catering or dining options ahead of time. You may be able to make special requests.
- If you discuss office accommodations with your employer, also suggest solutions. For instance, if you want your desk or workstation further from the office kitchen, point out a space or two that would be more suitable. (If you meet resistance over necessary workplace accommodations, you can request them under the Americans With Disabilities Act.)
- Rinsing off or wiping eating or serving utensils does not remove all reaction-causing proteins from them. Bring your own utensils, cups and plates to use in common eating areas. After washing them with soap and water, store them in your desk drawer.
- Even if all your co-workers know about your allergy and are accommodating, never assume they have remembered to bring food or snacks you can safely eat; always check with them before taking a bite. You might also choose never to eat food or snacks others bring in.
- Keep a supply of disinfecting wipes on hand to use on your desk, dining area tables and counters. If you are environmentally sensitive, companies such as Seventh Generation make wipes using botanical, nontoxic disinfectants.
- The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine believes all businesses should be educated about anaphylaxis. Consider educating your employer, or suggest that all employees receive basic allergy and anaphylaxis education.
Always Be Prepared For A Reaction
Always keep a well-stocked allergy treatment kit or drawer at work. It should contain antihistamines and injectable epinephrine, plus oral steroids and a rescue inhaler if your doctor recommends them. Wear a medic alert bracelet that details your allergies and where to find your emergency medications.
Even if you prefer your allergy remain a private matter, inform at least one person at work about it. Describe to them the symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as trouble breathing, dizziness, wheezing, nausea, and passing out. Be certain they know where your medications are kept and how to help.
Source: Everyday Health Photo credit: Phil Whitehouse / flickr creative commons