You just left the doctor’s office with a peanut allergy diagnosis and a stack of what-NOT-to-do notes. It’s challenging enough to get a kid to eat what they’re supposed to, now you have to figure out what they can’t have and make sure they steer clear of it completely.
If you didn’t have your work cut out for you in the kitchen before, you certainly do now.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and concerned. This step-by-step guide will help you you get started. Following a new day-to-day routine will be challenging in the beginning, but it gets easier with practice, time and help.
Start here with these steps:
Confirm your allergy diagnosis
Learn what trigger foods to avoid
Be proactive and prepared
Before you found out about your diagnosis, chances are a medical professional – an allergist or immunologist – likely performed a blood test or skin prick. Allergists have specialized training and expertise to determine if your symptoms are caused by an allergy, food intolerance or specific disorder.
And your doctor probably told you that no allergy test is 100 percent accurate; there is always a possibility of getting a false positive, in which the results would indicate you’re allergic to a food that really isn’t a problem.
It’s important to confirm that you are really allergic to certain foods. Follow-up tests may be necessary.
A doctor will ask you to provide a thorough medical history and possibly a physical exam. Although it’s not necessary, it’s helpful to note the kinds of foods you eat, the frequency and the nature of your symptoms before you visit your doctor.
One way to confirm a food allergy is to eliminate* it from your diet for a period of time. The next step in this method is to reintroduce the food to see if it causes your symptoms to reoccur. Obtain a second opinion and participate in further testing if you feel uncomfortable with the first results or suspect that it could be a false positive.
Learn What Trigger Foods to Avoid
This is where things get a little confusing – after all, nuts are nuts, right? All you have to do is avoid the peanut butter isle at the grocery store and you’re all set. If only it were that easy. Once you figure out what your (child’s) trigger foods are, you have to make the necessary changes in your diet and lifestyle.
If trying to figure out what someone with a peanut allergy can safely eat wasn’t the source of one big headache already, there’s also the issue of what they’re willing to eat.
Our food comes from many sources, and ingredients can go by different names. That makes grocery shopping a chore. You will find allergens in the most surprising foods (who knew there were traces of peanuts in Mayonnaise?) and unexpected packages. It’s critical to learn to read labels and identify the foods that could trigger a reaction.
The safest way to avoid a trigger food is to read package labels EVERY SINGLE TIME – even if it’s a product you ate the day before. Manufacturers can change their ingredients or move production to another line, where cross-contamination can occur. Double up your efforts by re-reading the product labels when you take food from the pantry or the refrigerator because someone else in the home may have purchased those items without remembering to look over the ingredients.
Always carry a list of your trigger foods and their associated ingredient names when you shop. There are also a variety of smartphone apps that you can download that can help you manage food lists and allergy details.
be proactive and prepared
* Please consult a medical professional before you try a food challenge or elimination diet.