The last week of April, leading into May—allergy and asthma awareness month—is Allergy Awareness Week. Most of us are, at this point, aware of the difficulties and anxiety that exist surrounding managing food allergies and other potentially severe allergies, such as those to Latex. But what can we do to help people living with these types of potentially life-threatening allergies everyday?
How you can help people living with allergies
Educate yourself! While it can surely get annoying, most people with allergies—from mild to severe—are happy to answer questions. But it can really show you care if you do some research for yourself! Some reputable sites to learn about allergies include:Reading blogs written by people living with allergies can also help you understand their experiences and feelings.
- Start taking a look at labels. Did you know that everyday household products, including those used for self-care like shampoo, can contain food allergens? Knowing what’s in what you use can help keep others safe. On that topic, too, while fragrance sensitivities aren’t usually a result of true allergies, using fragrance-free products can help people with allergies and asthma, too!
Bring the labels with you. If it’s pot luck day at the office and you’ve prepared a recipe your coworker with food allergies can enjoy too, you may be able to reassure them by bringing labels for the ingredients you used for them to check—but don’t be offended if they don’t partake. Cross contamination is a problem that can still cause severe reactions, even if just residue of an allergen is present. It may not be that your coworker is concerned with the cleanliness of your kitchen… it’s just that even a trace amount of an allergen can be deadly.Many classrooms now have restrictions on bringing food-based treats. If your child has a classmate with food allergies or other dietary needs, see if you can speak with their parent to ensure they too can enjoy the treat your child brings in. For instance, store-bought fruit-flavoured popsicles may be safer than cupcakes if you can bring them around party time; or providing juice boxes or lemonade crystals everyone can enjoy.In both cases, pre-packaged foods may be better than home-made, as it offers assurance of what exactly is in the products.
- Know how to help. Being trained on how to use an epinephrine auto-injector, and how to identify an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis can help both you and those around you feel more confident in the event someone in your life experiences a reaction to a known—or unknown—allergen.
- Understand environmental allergies. While environmental allergies can be more of a hassle than they are dangerous, symptoms of allergies and asthma can significantly impact productivity of both adults and kids! If someone has told you they have environmental allergies, simple steps may be able to help you help them minimize exposure—your boss may say it’s cool to bring your dog to the office, but your coworker may feel otherwise!
More and more children and adults are living with allergies from mild environmental allergies, allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczema, to severe reactions to foods. The most common food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, fish, shellfish, sesame, soy and wheat. A person can be allergic to “practically any food” according to FARE , and non-food allergens also need to be considered as well, including those to Latex (which is contained in many school/office supplies including rubber bands and erasers, as well as balloons) and insect stings. [1.1]
Encouraging people with potentially life threatening allergies to wear medical ID jewelry is also important—as is carrying epinephrine at all times. Having allergies can be stressful, but having friends who care—and show it—can make things easier!