Managing Life With Milk and Egg Allergies

in Food Allergy, Milk & Egg, Newly Diagnosed
Published: August 23, 2010

Speak Up About Food: With food allergies, you have to ask questions and get over shyness when someone else – from Grandma, to an in-law, to a waiter, to a teacher or a colleague – wants to serve food to you or your child with this allergy.

While it’s always nice when people try to accommodate you, if they are “99 per cent” sure a dish is allergy-friendly, you must consider it unsafe. It is far better to need to explain why you must decline rather than watch your child suffer through a reaction. Not only would a reaction cause trauma for you and your child, it will most likely traumatize the person who offered the food.

It’s also important to teach an allergic child not to eat foods that others offer – unless mom or dad has pre-approved or (when they’re older) unless they’re sure of the ingredients. For adults, get over embarrassment; be certain to ask about ingredients, and learn to do this an efficient, confident manner.

At School: For a parent of a child with milk or egg allergies, sending them off to school can be a time of anxiousness.

It’s important to communicate clearly and calmly with your child’s teacher and the principal, and to create an anaphylaxis emergency plan (also called a food allergy action plan) to protect your child. Also ensure that the teacher (and other staff e.g. a coach) is receiving at least annual training on using an epinephrine auto-injector and that he or she knows where your child’s “pen” is kept.

Become familiar with the anaphylaxis policy or law in your province or state and use it to develop a plan tailored to your child. Be sure your allergic child knows not to share food with peers and not to take food from anyone, including the teacher, unless you’ve said it’s OK.

At a restaurant: Dining out with a milk or egg allergy may seem daunting at first, but it is possible to do so safely and enjoyably. First, read a menu on the establishment’s website. Then call ahead to ask the manager or chef about menu items and how they handle pans and utensils in the kitchen to avoid cross-contact. If he or she is unable to answer your questions, don’t eat there.

When you arrive at the restaurant, tell the manager and your server of your serious milk or egg allergy and discuss menu items that will be safe to eat.

Be mindful of particularly risky foods: sauces, desserts, salad dressing and items that are unsafe for you that may be fried in the same oil as items that are safe for you. Some restaurants will become off-limits while others can be more reliable. For example, Italian and Greek restaurants tend to use olive oil rather than butter which can be safe for those with milk allergy.  And remember: when in doubt, don’t eat it.

Be prepared: Make it a rule – no epinephrine auto-injector means no food. While you’ll do everything to make sure you’re not eating milk or eggs, accidents happen. Make sure you always have your auto-injector on you when you eat, in case of an emergency. If your child is allergic, make sure this rule is one he or she takes seriously.

Educating Others: In order to successfully manage a milk or egg allergy, those around you/your child need to be aware of the allergy and the serious consequences that could result from eating milk or eggs.

Plan what you’ll say to others to explain this condition. Be calm, clear about the information and keep the conversation based on facts. Politely request that they help you keep yourself or your child safe. You’ll often find that once a person understands about food allergies and anaphylaxis, they’ll be more than willing to help out. Be mindful that there is a learning curve, and don’t expect people who don’t live with the allergy to absorb it all as quickly as you have.