Food allergies. What friends and family need to know

Food Allergies

Avoiding trigger allergens can be a challenge when they are found in everyday foods. But for people with severe allergies, having friends, family or colleagues who are aware of their allergies can help a lot at shared meal or snack times. They’re not just being fussy – it’s important for their health. Being open about allergies can also help people stay prepared by making sure that more than one person at the table is aware of what an unexpected trigger food could mean. Here’s a suggestion of some things you should be aware of:

  • Know the food/s that trigger your friend’s allergic reaction
    The most common foods that cause 90% of allergic reactions in Australia are milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts (such as cashew and almond), sesame seeds, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. But all sorts of other foods can cause allergies, such as banana, chicken, garlic and mushrooms.
  • Understand that people with severe allergies can’t share food
    Even small amounts of allergen can cause a reaction so it’s always best for people with allergies not to share food just in case something on your plate was not allergy-free. Even washing hands after eating is important to remove potential traces of allergens.
  • Know where the medical kit is kept
    For people with allergies, that means their ASCIA Action Plan and their prescribed medication.  The ASCIA Action Plan has clear instructions on what to do in an emergency – check it out here
  • Be prepared to help
    If your friend looks sick or says they are sick, be prepared to help them (or tell an adult) straight away, even if they don’t want you to or are hesitating.
  • Avoiding the triggers is key, but that doesn’t mean people can’t join in
    Include your friends in fun activities just like anyone else!
  • Understand the symptoms of severe allergy
    Key severe allergy symptoms are
    Difficult/noisy breathing
    Swelling of tongue
    Swelling/tightness in throat
    Difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
    Wheeze or persistent cough
    Persistent dizziness or collapse
    Pale and floppy (young children)

However, it is also important to know that not everyone that has a rash, tummy pain, swelling or other symptoms after eating food has an allergy. Some people have food intolerance, which is different. This is why it is important that everyone is properly diagnosed. People need to get the right advice about management and treatment if they have a history of reacting to food.

This article has been produced in collaboration with Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia and Alphapharm Pty Ltd (trading as Mylan Australia) in the interest of anaphylaxis education