Building Your Food Allergy Team

Building Your Food Allergy Team

Managing food allergies is a team sport. Sure, you’ve got your star player who is going to tackle most of the workload. (And if you’re wondering, that star player is the person who has food allergies.) That person, however, should be surrounded by a solid team of others who hold a wide range of roles and responsibilities. Building your team may require you to train members who are assigned to you and recruit supportive players that can fill roles you’ve got say in filling.

Age-Appropriate Responsibility

Ultimately, the individual living with food allergies needs to take on primary responsibility for making sure they are avoiding their allergens and able to respond to a potential reaction if needed. However, when your child is too young to manage their allergies on their own, you’re their proxy. Just include them in the process. 

Remember, as parents, our job isn’t just to keep our kids safe from their allergens. It’s to help them learn to take on that responsibility for themselves in an age-appropriate manner. (You’ll find some tips in this previous article: Growing Allergic Adults). 

Home Team

The first set of teammates on Team Food Allergy Management is literally the home team. Everyone living in your home regardless of your age and lifestyle – parents, partners, siblings, roommates – should be aware of your allergies, how to help keep you safe, and how to respond to a reaction if you have one. 

What that looks like is going to vary depending on your specific food allergy action plan. It may mean keeping certain foods (or food groups) out of the home. It may mean that foods containing your allergens are in the house, but stored and consumed in dedicated spaces. Whatever it is, your home team should be on-board with it and willing to play by those rules. 

Medical Team

Your medical team starts with your allergist. Find a doctor that you feel comfortable with. Can you ask your questions? Do you feel heard? Is the allergist up to date on the latest research? Don’t stop there, though, your food allergies may influence what other medications you can take. It may influence your diet and lifestyle. 

For some patients, food allergies can lead to anxiety or other challenges. Seek healthcare providers from your general practitioner to specialist and mental health providers that understand the unique challenges your food allergies may bring and the way living with allergies might influence other aspects of your life.

School Team

From day care to college, food allergies mean you need to find teammates in school settings. From classroom teachers to school nurses and disability services, your school team may not be familiar with what it takes to keep you or your child safe from food allergies. Meeting with key players in this environment can be helpful. 

Be prepared with what you need (and know what you’d like). Enter the conversation with the assumption that folks want to be helpful. Don’t start off defensive or ready to battle for what you want. You want to encourage cooperation and support. 

Work Teams

From that first teenage job to full-time careers and volunteer opportunities, you’ll want to build a support network within work settings. From your supervisor to human resources to a few teammates you may consider friends, build a support system that can help you respond to a reaction if you need a hand, or who may be prepared to help address potential issues you might encounter during the course of your work day. 

You may not necessarily keep the office kitchen free of your allergens, but you may have a few close friends that will bring in safer options so they can sit with you at lunch and not worry about the dairy-laden dust wafting out of their just opened bag of cheese puffs. 

Social Teams

Friends, team sports, Scouts, faith-based organizations, and other activities beyond the classroom mean a whole host of folks to engage with on a regular basis. You don’t necessarily need to loop everyone you encounter in or to avoid your allergens, but you do need folks in each setting that are aware of your allergens. 

You also need to work with your allergist to determine what accommodations you need to be safe and successful in those spaces. Then recruit a support team to help you maintain those parameters. 

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