• By Talia Follador
  • In Uncategorized
  • May 25, 2021

Food Allergies: Doing the Impossible!

By Amanda Sandroni, MS and Micheline Orlowsky, MS, RDN, LDN

Food allergies can be life-threatening. The most common form of treatment is utilizing a restrictive diet that would force the avoidance of those foods. While this may be very difficult, and food allergies are very serious, this blog can offer some tips and tricks to help keep individuals with food allergies safe!

The top nine* food allergies included on food labels are:

  1. Peanuts
  2. Tree nuts
  3. Shellfish
  4. Fin fish
  5. Wheat
  6. Soy
  7. Egg
  8. Milk
  9. Sesame*

Managing food allergies can be difficult, but not impossible. For those with food allergies in school, speaking with the nurse about the school’s food allergy policies is key. It may be helpful to talk with the food service director/registered dietitian as well [3].

Eating and cooking with food allergies at home can calm the nerves with those with food allergies, however there is still a risk of having cross-contact with the allergen in your own home. Avoiding cross-contact requires extensively cleaning all cookware, dishes, utensils, and any other food preparation materials after the item is used (and sometimes cleaning it before, especially if used with a food containing the specific allergen) to ensure a safe meal is being prepared [3].

Eating at work with food allergies may be scary, however advocate for yourself so your food allergy doesn’t hold you back. Discuss with your employers when you first start working about any accommodations you may need to perform your job (extra time off for additional doctors appointments or a separate kitchen space to store your lunch). To help you feel safer at work,  tell your coworkers about your food allergy and the seriousness of it and show them how to use an EpiPen in case of an emergency [4].

Traveling and eating out can be challenging for people with food allergies, but again is not impossible! Being aware of your surroundings, letting those you are with know about your allergy, contacting airlines, or alerting your server at a restaurant about your allergy is also important. Teaching those that you live with or are traveling/eating out with on how to use your EpiPen could help put your mind at ease. Click here to see a step by step process on how to use an EpiPen [4]. 

Attending large gatherings where food will be offered when you have a food allergy could make you nervous, but taking precautions prior and during the event may ease your stress. Speak to whoever will be in charge at the event and in charge of the food and talk with them about your concerns/special accommodations. If you are unable to do so, it may be best to bring your own food for consumption or eat prior to the event to avoid cross-contact. Even when people try to keep you safe, mistakes can happen, so appreciate their efforts, but always advocate for yourself for what you need to stay safe [4].

When dining out with food allergies it is recommended to call ahead and ask to speak to a manager. Check out these tips and sample questions to ask when calling ahead of time. Restaurants often list the major allergens if they are involved in the process of making the dish. Note that this may only be available for chain restaurants; local businesses may not have the nutrition information readily available [1].

Reading labels is extremely important when managing food allergies. It is important to note the specific allergens included on the packaging. Advisory labeling has become increasingly popular. This is when a manufacturer may use certain phrases when a particular allergen is not purposeful on the label but the food could have come in contact with the allergen. You will see this language presented as “processed in a facility with nuts.” It is advised to avoid the foods with this labeling technique as the actual risk of the food is unknown. Since labeling laws do not apply to alcoholic beverages, it is imperative that those with food allergies call the manufacturer if there are questions about the ingredients on the label [3].

How can a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) help manage food allergies [2]?

  1. RDNs are the sole experts in food and nutrition.
  2. RDNs will discuss your child’s normal intake along with any symptoms that have occurred with recent intake of foods.
  3. RDNs will be able to note nutritional deficiencies that the child may be at risk for if avoidance of food is recommended.
  4. RDNs will be able to decrease at risk deficiencies by educating about different foods to meet their nutritional needs. 
  5. RDNs will be able to help communicate with patients and caregivers (if necessary) about reading labels, and how to manage the food allergy as well.

References

[1] Dining out. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/dining-out

[2] Indorato, D., RD, LDN. (2014). The Dietitian’s Role in Food Allergy Management. Kids with Food Allergies.

[3] Sicherer, S. H., MD. (2020). Patient education: Food allergen avoidance (Beyond the Basics) (1340017535 982273051 R. A. Wood MD & 1340017536 982273051 E. TePas MD, MS, Eds.). Up to Date.

[4] Workplace lunches and parties. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/workplace-lunches-and-parties

About the Authors

Amanda is a recent graduate from Marywood University in Scranton, PA where she simultaneously completed her Masters of Science in Nutrition and the Dietetic Internship. Amanda received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, in Bradford, PA. As a student, Amanda was allowed the opportunity to complete many research projects on food allergies, one of which was her thesis. Since starting graduate school she has become increasingly interested in food allergies, however, she has always been aware of how serious and life threatening food allergies are, as her sister has multiple severe food allergies. Amanda hopes to work as a clinical dietitian or in an allergy office educating patients on their food allergy(ies) and how to intuitively eat. In her free time Amanda enjoys going on hikes with her fiancé, playing with her therapy dog, Monterey Jack and collecting rare houseplants!

 

Micheline, who usually goes by Micki, completed her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition with a minor in Science and Master of Science in Nutrition from Marywood University. She completed her Dietetic Internship with a focus in community nutrition at Cedar Crest College. She is active within the dietetics community and has served as Northeast PA Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President, President-Elect, Professional Education Chair and Professional Education Chair-Elect, and Career Paths Panel Coordinator, on the Board of the PA Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Political Action Committee as Chair-Elect, and was the State Volunteer Chair for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics National Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Philadelphia in 2019. She also will be transitioning to President-Elect for PAND for 2021-2022. Micheline currently works at Marywood University as the Clinical Coordinator for the Master’s Dietetic Internship program and is an Assistant Professor of Practice. Her professional interests include health promotion and wellness program planning, public health and policy, and nutrition education. In her spare time, Micheline also enjoys cooking and baking. Additionally, she is active in the local improv groups, Scranton Improv and Comedy and the Laugh Collective, and believes laughter is the best medicine, aside from good nutrition.