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Made in India Magazine | September 20, 2021

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Divya Mangal

For many people, food allergies are a part of life. While it can be a psychologically and socially debilitating condition, it’s by no means something that should adversely affect your life. In this piece, we give you seven ways in which you can either prevent or control your food allergies and keep them at bay.

People who are prone to food allergies are known to be atopic, which means they have an inherent genetic leaning towards allergic conditions. In these people, we cannot prevent allergies no matter what we do. It is sometimes believed that avoiding common food allergens is a way to prevent allergies in people, but there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that this approach works.

There are a few best practices, though, that can be used in the family to keep the likelihood of food allergies low.

1. Breast feed your baby for the first year of life or longer
For babies with a family history of food allergies, exclusive breast-feeding for at least the first four months up to a year is likely to prevent allergy to milk in the baby. If breast-feeding for that long is not an option for you, try a hydrolysed milk formula, which contains milk protein that is changed specifically to prevent milk allergies. There is no proof that giving your child soy milk will prevent allergy in them if they’re genetically prone to it.

2. Keep the home environment smoke free
Tobacco worsens many allergies, so keep your home environment smoke free to the maximum extent possible.

3. Read food labels carefully
In spite of the greatest care to avoid the foods that we’re allergic to, allergens can stay hidden in a variety of foods and products. So if you have food allergies, make it a habit to read food labels carefully and keep a lookout for those foods that are known to cause a reaction in your body. Sauces, ice-creams and processed foods are the most likely culprits.

4. Be on alert when eating out
Eating out can be a dangerous proposition for someone with food allergies. Make it a habit to question the waiting staff about ingredients in a dish that you wish to have, and if they’re unsure, don’t hesitate to send them off to ask the chef or the kitchen staff. Alert the people at the joint you’re eating at to the possibility of an adverse reaction in your body and how they must act to give you first aid.

5. Consider medication
Antihistamines are the most common medicines used to control dust and hair allergy. These block the action of histamine during an allergic reaction to alleviate symptoms such as itching and sneezing. Epinephrine is another medicine administered as a shot that relaxes your muscles and allows you to breathe more freely. This is commonly used to treat anaphylaxis.

6. Have an allergy profile done
Visit your doctor and get a complete list on all the foods that you’re allergic to. If needed, carry this along with you wherever you go in your wallet, like it is your driver’s license. You can refer to it whenever you’re in doubt. That way you’re never second-guessing yourself. While this can have social implications, no amount of social prestige is worth risking your life.

7. Carry safe home substitute food with you
If your allergies are severe, you may consider carrying home food with you in a bag whenever you go out, just in case you do not find a dish on the menu which is safe for you to have. While most restaurants have a ‘do not bring your own food’ policy, they’re willing to make an exception for a health reason.

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