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Severe Food Allergies: An Emergency Plan

1. Read Labels. Every time you shop, read the label on everything you put in your grocery cart. New labeling rules make it easier to spot the ingredients. Now, labels have to list if they have an ingredient that may be an allergy trigger in disguise. For example, they have to say "egg" instead of just "albumin" (an egg product). They also have to list the specific nuts or seafood in a product.

Even if you've bought something before, read the label again. You never know when ingredients might change. 

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Allergies affect more than 50 million people in the United States -- the poor souls who sniffle, sneeze, and get all clogged up when face to face with the allergen (or allergens) that set them off. For many, allergies are seasonal and mild, requiring nothing more than getting extra tissue or taking a decongestant occasionally. For others, the allergy is to a known food, and as long as they avoid the food, no problem. But for legions of others adults, allergies are so severe it interferes with their...

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Check more than food labels. Some lotions, hair care products, soaps, and medications can also have food products -- like nuts or milk -- that might trigger allergies.

2. Ask Questions -- When you go out to eat, whether at a restaurant or a friend's house, ask what's in the food. Ask if food has been prepared using the same surface or utensils as a food you are allergic to. At a restaurant, talk to the chef, manager, and your server about your allergies. Order food that's prepared simply. Always carry your medication with you, just in case. When eating at a friend's house, offer to bring a “safe” dish that others can share.

3. Carry Medicine -- Your doctor will probably prescribe an Auvi-Q or EpiPen (injectable epinephrine). Make sure you or your child know when and how to use it and what to do after you use it. You or your child should always have it handy. You’ll need to use it in case of an allergic reaction. Check the expiration date and write it on your calendar, or sign up for automatic refills at your pharmacy. Make sure everyone in your family knows how to inject it.

4. Have an Allergy Action Plan -- Talk to your doctor about what to do in case of an allergic reaction. Write down what foods you or your child are severely allergic to and what to do in case of a reaction. Keep a copy of the plan on file. If your child is allergic make sure your child’s school has copies and that his teachers know about it. If you’re allergic, have a plan at work.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD on October 25, 2012

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