We had so much fun last week at our food allergy roundtable event that we wanted to do a short recap post. In addition, we also wanted to thank all of our participants for asking great questions and adding to the conversation as well as The Skinny Chef, Jen Isherloh for bringing the “chefs” perspective on dining out with food allergies.
Here are the three main take-aways from the event:
1) It’s important to have a plan in place when dining out at restaurants if you have food allergies
The main topic of the food allergy roundtable event was to educate people on how to dine out safely in restaurants if you have food allergies. While it’s our hope that restaurants have a protocol in place to properly serve someone with food allergies, this is not often the case. For that reason, we are big proponents of mapping out a strategy for patients that have food allergies, especially life-threatening ones.
As we outlined in a previous blog post, “Four Tips on dining out at restaurants if you have allergies,” here are the four tips we recommend to our patients:
- Know your restaurant
- Communicate with everyone, but start at the top
- Make sure that the dish that arrives is YOUR dish
- Beware of hidden allergens
2) It’s important to know how to use an EpiPen
We’ve all heard of an “EpiPen” but now it’s time to answer some questions around the device. Here’s why you need to use it, when to use it and finally how to use it.
The reason why you’d need to use an epipen is incase you go into anaphylactic shock. According to epipen.com, “Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur quickly (as fast as within a couple of minutes). Symptoms of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) vary, but can include hives, itching, flushing, and swelling of the lips, tongue, and roof of mouth. Other more severe symptoms include shortness of breath, throat closing, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, etc.”
Even if you don’t have food allergies it’s important to know how to administrate an epipen injection, as you never know when you might be in a situation when you are asked to administer a shot for someone. It’s actually said that about 20% of the time an epipen is used, the shot is given by someone else, and not the person who it’s prescribed to.
Here’s are a few tips on how to properly use an EpiPen:
- Make sure you have a “live” or full EpiPen.
- Remove blue cap at the top of the pen
- To hold the epipen properly, grab it as if you were holding a bar, so that both your fingers and thumb are wrapped around the device. Do not put your thumb on the top of the device.
- When you are ready, stick the epipen into the outer or lateral thigh region of the body and hold for 10 seconds. This is very important because you want to ensure that all the liquid from the pen gets injected into the body.
- Don’t worry about removing clothes. The epipen will penetrate through the clothes as long as they are tight to your skin.
3) Having a “gluten allergy” is a misnomer
Here’s why: While we could dedicate a whole post to this topic, the main point we want to share is that considering gluten as an allergy (or allergen) is a misnomer. Not being able to digest gluten is really an antibody mediated inflammatory response, which is different than typical allergies.
If your system truly can’t tolerate gluten, then you have the disease that is called Celiac disease. Celiac disease is a disorder that hurts the inside lining of the small intestine and inhibits it from absorbing parts of food that you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The damage is a result of a reaction to eating gluten.
The test for identifying Celiac disease isn’t always conclusive however and this is where the grey area happens. From an allergist’s perspective, we believe that there are some people who do not fit the standard criteria for Celiac Disease, however they are still gluten sensitive.
If you think you have Celiac disease, we’d recommend visiting a Primary Care or Gastroenterologist. If after that you are still looking for answers, then come and visit your local Tribeca allergist. Together we will try to look for an answer and see if there is actually a gluten allergy.