The #1 Food Allergy Mistake People Make (and How to Avoid It)

Shocking research about life-saving medication

Don't make the mistake of forgetting your life-saving medications. by Kate Ter Haar/Flickr

Whether you travel for business, are a college student, or just taking a family vacation, you don’t want to make this common mistake: forgetting to take your medication wherever you go.

I am getting ready to go on a vacation with my family. We will be in a remote location and out of contact with doctors, hospitals and Wi-Fi. Truthfully, it’s made me a little bit nervous about my son’s food allergies and the plan of action should he have a reaction while we are away.

I wouldn’t dream of going without his epinephrine or antihistamine.

But a recent study of 35 families with children who had food allergy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, saw some jaw-dropping findings:

  • Four out of ten parents (40%) who had children with a potentially life-threatening food allergy didn’t have their epinephrine medication with them.
  • Of those who did have their epinephrine with them, half of them had expired devices.
  • Twenty percent of families surveyed had experienced a prior allergic reaction requiring epinephrine administration, yet only 29% of them had epinephrine with them at the time of the survey.

No doubt, living with food allergies is hard. And life is busy, and adults get distracted. It is shocking to hear these findings, but not completely surprising. How many times have your forgotten to carry your epinephrine? Forgotten to pack it in the backpack, or the suitcase?

Or have had the school nurse call and tell you that your child’s medications have expired? Or, headed out for classes or left the building without your epinephrine or other medications?

With food allergies, you must carry your epinephrine and supportive medications with you.

When you travel, you must include medications on your packing list and make plans to get prescriptions filled, and make sure your medications are up to date, and not expired.

And, of course, if you’ve had a reaction before, you have to be even more diligent with keeping your epinephrine and supportive medications by your side.

I know many of you travel for a living, or will be vacationing in the near future. As I plan for this trip, here’s what I have done to prepare, and I hope it reminds you to be prepared also:

  • Connect with pediatrician or physician. If you need a renewed prescription, you will need to get it from your primary care provider. Make sure you do this before the school year starts, or on annual basis.
  • Renew prescriptions. It goes without saying, if your medication is expired, it is less likely to be effective, if at all. Make sure you keep track of expiration dates, and renew your prescriptions in a timely manner. For young kids, most schools won’t allow entrance unless prescription medications are in the nurse’s office. For college kids and adults, it’s up to you to keep track of your medicine, from expiration dates to its availability when you need it.
  • Pick up fresh over-the-counter medications. Double-check expiration dates and purchase any medications that will expire before or during your travel.
  • Inform personnel at your destination of food allergies. Giving advance warning allows your destination to be prepared for you, and arrange to accommodate your food allergies. In our case, we will be in a camp-like setting, and food will be determined well in advance of our arrival. It never hurts to make sure hotels and restaurants are food allergy friendly, and it will relieve potential stress for you.
  • Assemble an action plan in the event of a reaction, or an emergency. You may not be with your child during a reaction, so have a step-by-step plan for treatment in the event of a reaction, similar to a Food Allergy Action Plan used in schools.
  • Prepare to be extra alert to the development of new allergies. Last year, my son reacted to raw pumpkin. This new allergy took us completely by surprise and was a strong reminder that food allergy can develop to any food at any time. Always be aware that food allergies can occur when you least expect it.

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