Imagine if you eat the wrong thing, even a small sip, you might immediately feel sick or even throw up? Or worse, your throat could close and put you in a life-threatening situation. For those with food allergies, these fears are not fiction, but the reality of the severity of food allergies.
While many people are able to avoid life-threatening situations, others may not be so lucky. For those unfortunate enough to have been exposed to food allergens, the experience can be terrifying. So, what can you do to eliminate the fear of food allergies?
It’s important to understand your food allergies and how to live safely and happily at the same time. Fortunately, with all the education, testing, treatment, and support, living a normal life with a food allergy is easier than ever.
Know your allergies
Most importantly, you truly know your food allergy at the time of diagnosis. A person diagnosed needs to know what a food allergen is and what reactions might occur if exposed to that food. For some, symptoms may be milder, such as an upset stomach or itchy eyes, while for others, it may cause an upset stomach, vomiting, hives and even diarrhea.
In addition to this, in some cases, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening, triggering an allergic reaction. It is important to know how severe your allergies are and to prepare for an allergy flare-up.
Knowing your allergic reaction means having a contingency plan in place for dealing with the reaction. It also means that you have allergy medication on hand at all times to treat reactions in a timely manner. If someone you know has been diagnosed with a potential allergic reaction to a food allergen, learning how to use epinephrine is crucial. Being prepared for any reaction can help ease your fears.
fear of the unexpected
Being diagnosed with a food allergy can lead to a whole new level of living with fear. Parents may worry that their children will be exposed when they are at school or away. Others worry for themselves that something will be cross-contaminated. What will happen? How will I get help? Will my throat close? Will my child be okay? It’s normal for these questions and fears to keep popping up.
Skipping social events, eating only at home, not telling others about your allergies and restricting your own diet is sometimes the result of this overwhelming fear. Many times, this fear can lead to social anxiety and really affect everyday life.
While it’s natural to have some fear of the reaction, it’s important not to let this fear become greater than necessary. It is important that the entire family work together to keep everyone informed about food allergies, symptoms, reactions, and a plan of care (if there are any exposures). It is also important to share this care plan with caregivers, colleagues, educators, friends, and anyone who will play a consistent role in this person’s life.
It is important to continue to educate those around you about new developments regarding allergies and to always make sure you have allergy medication on hand in an emergency. Practicing what to do in an emergency, having alternative food options on hand, and having extra medication on hand will also dispel the fear.
fear after experience
About every three minutes, someone with an allergic reaction goes to the emergency room. Swelling of the lips or tongue, difficulty breathing, and restricted airways when the throat is closed are all symptoms that can send you to the emergency room for food allergen exposure. For allergy sufferers and their families, the experience can be terrifying. With the right medical care and attention, it’s important to know that a full recovery will occur. However, for those who have lived through the ordeal, this severe experience can create residual fears.
It seems reasonable that after this trip to the ER, there might be more panic, nervousness, and fear of this happening again. It is important to pay close attention to how you feel after this experience.
This can lead to post-traumatic stress syndrome, in which it is difficult for you to put the event behind you. You may be afraid of social situations, you may begin to restrict your dietary intake, become withdrawn and have panic attacks. Left unaddressed, it can lead to stunted growth, nutritional deficiencies, weight loss, excessive anxiety, and even developing an eating disorder.
Knowing this, it is crucial that all of the people’s fears are addressed after experiencing the trauma of food allergen exposure. Talking about the experience, understanding what may have happened, discussing how to prevent it from happening again, and supporting people with food allergies is critical.
Talking to your doctor, therapist or nutritionist can help understand fears. This situation should not be taken lightly, and it may take a while for the person to feel safe again. This may require spending extra time re-educating others about food allergens and developing new contingency plans.
The ultimate goal will be to allay fears and validate concerns about food allergy exposure. In the end, reducing fear will help those with food allergies return to a healthy and happy life.