Having a food allergy used to mean dining out was limited to carrying your plate from the kitchen to the porch or, at best, eating at the home of a close friend or relative who could guarantee your food offenders were nowhere in sight.
Today, however, eating out is a lot easier -- and safer -- for the 2 million Americans who suffer with a mild, moderate, or even a severe food allergy. One reason: Restaurants are more aware and more prepared.
"The awareness of food allergies has definitely increased...
No. 1. Get a diagnosis. You need to learn what triggers your symptoms. That way you can avoid them or find the best treatment. Start with your primary-care doctor, who may send you to an allergist for testing.
No. 2. Tweak your surroundings. Do your best to clear your office of things you're allergic to. Get rid of chair cushions that can attract dust mites. Bring in a portable filter for pollen or pet dander that may be hanging in the air. Make sure it's the right size for your workspace. Eat inside on days when you know the pollen count is high. Also, ask your office manager if it's possible to put in high-efficiency filters (MRV11 or MRV12) for the air system and to replace carpet in your office or cubicle.
No. 3. Choose the right medicine. If you have moderate to severe allergies, you probably need to take medications. First, tackle symptoms one by one. For instance, try eye drops for itchy eyes or nasal sprays if you're all stuffed up. But you don't want to use over-the-counter decongestant sprays for more than 3 days in a row. If you do, it can make your symptoms worse.
Antihistamines also help bring relief. They're good if you've got a runny nose and itchy eyes. They come in pills, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops. Some have fewer side effects than others. Ask your doctor for suggestions.
The key is to start taking antihistamines early in the allergy season, not when your symptoms are full-blown.
You can now buy nasal corticosteroids without a prescription. Studies show that using them before and during the pollen season can help control allergies.
If you don't feel better after trying over-the-counter medicines, talk to your doctor about allergy shots. They take a much longer time to work but can help ease your symptoms in the long run.