It’s the start of the New Year which means it’s the time of year when people make resolutions. Most people make New Year’s resolutions to go to the gym more, to go on a diet, or maybe be more mindful of others and the world around them. What would a person with food allergies want? Some would say they want to have less fear, and some may say that they don’t want food allergies limiting them, but most would say they would want others to know about their food allergies and how to help them. My own personal New Year’s resolution is to make 2017 the year that all food allergies should be taken seriously.

What would be great is if people with food allergies were understood more, if people knew the seriousness of the allergy and what we stress over, and what simple things we would want others to keep in mind.

What does a person with food allergies want others to know?

All food allergies are serious. People think that a peanut allergy is the only food allergy that causes anaphylaxis and death. The fact is that in the U.S., while we have 8 top food allergens that are responsible for 90% of allergic reactions, overall more than 170 foods have been found to cause anaphylaxis. So please don’t underestimate the seriousness of an allergy simply because it’s not a peanut allergy.

What does a person with a food allergy want their friends and family to do?

  • Wash your hands after eating. It’s a simple step that is most important in keeping food allergic people safe.
  • Be mindful when planning social events — having food allergies makes events with foods more difficult, but not impossible. Some steps to make it manageable are as follows:
    • Ask what they can and cannot eat.
    • Ask if they have brands they like.
    • Ask them before going to a restaurant, they may have one they trust, they may need to see the menu in advance or call in advance.
    • Ask how you can help if a reaction happens.
  • Know where and what an epinephrine auto-injector is and to call 911 in an emergency.

Now what should a person with food allergies know?

  • A person with food allergies needs to know that the main responsibility in staying safe is theirs.
  • Make it a goal this year to make sure your Epinephrine auto injector and other medications are always with you.
  • NEVER eat anything without a label. If a food has no label, don’t eat it, even if you are at a close friends or family member’s home.
  • Have open communication with your health provider; ask as many questions as you may have, don’t ask on social media.
  • Know that food allergies are manageable.

With all of this in mind, it’s important to educate everyone on food allergies, because the more others know, the more those with food allergies can feel included and stay safe in the New Year.

About Harriet:

In 2001, she left teaching in a New York City classroom to combine her three most important interests in life: teaching, asthma, and drama. Harriet wrote theAsthma Basicscurriculum for theNew York City Department of Health. She is a member of theSchools Committeeof theNew York City Asthma Partnership. Besides having asthma herself, Harriet is the mother of two young boys who have food allergies and asthma. During the summer Harriet is a food allergy specialist at a day camp.