How can I be Allergy Aware?

It is Food Allergy Week here in Australia – 21st-27th of May, a week all about raising awareness of food allergies. So we are sharing tips for how you can be Allergy Aware and help keep people with allergies safe.

What does it mean to be allergy aware? Allergy Aware means understanding allergies, allergic reactions and anaphylaxis and understanding how you can keep people with allergies safe.

So let’s start with a few allergy facts

  • Australia has some of the highest rates of allergies in the world
  • 1 in 10 infants will be diagnosed with a food allergy before the age of 1
  • Anaphylaxis is a life threatening condition and Epinephrine is the front line treatment, usually in the form of an Epipen or Anapen
  • A tiny amount of the food can cause an anaphylactic reaction
  • Dairy, egg, peanuts, treenuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and sesame are considered the Top 9 Allergens, and account for 90% of food allergies
  • Food proteins need to be washed off with soap and water, hand sanitiser does not remove allergens. Wipes can help but soap and water is best.

If you would like to educate yourself about allergies, ASCIA has online community training.

Managing food allergies on a daily basis can be challenges and people with allergies and their families report;

  • Avoiding social functions, including family functions and community events, due to the presence of food and the lack of understanding of food allergies in the community
  • A lower quality of life
  • Being bullied as a result of their allergies (a staggering 53%)
  • Finding it stressful to eat away from home
  • Needing to advocate for themselves and their children everyday
  • Higher rates of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress

Those with food allergies have strategies to keep themselves safe like washing their hands before eating, not putting their hands in their mouth (kids), asking before eating, not sharing food and so on. However, it isn’t fool proof and small actions taken by the community can also help.

So how can you help? What can the general community and public do to support people living with allergies and help to keep them safe and included? This is where Allergy Awareness comes in. It isn’t always easy, food is such a large part of our society and most cultures, we need it to survive. However, there are a few simple thing you can do to help.

Here are our Top 5 Allergy Aware Tips for the community.

The essential gist is be a mindful and careful when eating food out in public. For example, if children play on the playground while eating a cheese sandwich or peanut butter sandwich, this gets on the equipment, making it less safe for children with dairy or peanut allergies. Eating outside the playground area and washing or wiping hands makes it a lot safer.

If you have friends with allergies you can practice allergy awareness in your home as well making it safer for your friends when they visit. Children may not be use to sitting down or standing in one place to eat but they get use to it pretty quickly. Plus kids are the best advocates so if you explain (even to little ones) that we do it to keep our friends safe, they will pick it up quickly.

Some added extra Allergy Aware tips

  • Be aware of food in sensory play and craft
  • Consider non food treats for birthdays and other celebrations
  • Ask about allergies when you are providing food
  • Consider events that do not revolve around food
  • Learn how to recognise the signs of allergic reactions and how to administer medication

Allergy Awareness at events and in community spaces

Last but not least some tips for those running events or managing community spaces.

  • Provide designated eating areas, ideally separated from toys, resources and play areas
  • Encourage or require eating in designated areas
  • Provide hand washing facilities
  • Have allergy aware/education signage
  • Provide allergy friendly food options
  • Ask about allergies when catering events
  • Ask if food providers have food allergy safety training/require they have the training

Allergy and Anapylaxis Australia has plenty of posters, resources and webinars.

There are few things more exciting as an allergy parent or even an adult with allergies when you turn up to a venue and they have designated eating areas and signs about hand washing and allergy awareness! Here are some great examples……

A big THANKS from all of us living with allergies!

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