Most people suffer from allergies for at least one season every year, but those affected by food allergies are affected all year round. According to foodallergy.com, about 4 percent of the general population suffers from food allergies, which translates to approximately 1 in 25 UMass Boston students.
So what kinds of food allergies are important to watch out for? According to foodallergy.com, 90 percent of food allergies are caused by peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. This can make it tricky for UMass Boston students with allergies to find good food in between classes.
So, if you have a food allergy, what options do you have?
1) Bring your own food to campus - Your best bet is to bring your own snacks or lunch with you when you are going to class. That way you know exactly what’s in your food and you don’t have to worry about getting an allergic reaction. One of the downsides to this is the difficulty of bringing temperature-sensitive foods onto campus. If it needs to remain refrigerated, you’d have to eat it quickly or get an icepack to keep it from going bad.
2) Eat prepackaged foods on campus - Eating foods that are already packaged and that you know don’t contain any of your food allergens is an easy way to avoid reactions. The downside is that most prepackaged foods are processed, loaded with preservatives and usually aren’t the healthiest thing you could be eating. Another con is that most prepackaged foods don’t specify whether or not their food was manufactured in a facility that uses known food allergens. Only stick to prepackaged foods that you know won’t give you a reaction.
3) If you know any other UMass Boston students with the same food allergies, find out what they eat - If you meet a UMass Boston student who has the same food allergen as you, ask them what they eat on campus that hasn’t caused a reaction, and what they’ve eaten that has caused a reaction. You can both help each other find out what foods to eat and which to avoid.
4) Avoid eating foods that your friends prepare - This is difficult because friends love to share the delicious food they have prepared with everyone. However, there is virtually no way of knowing every single ingredient they used, whether there was cross-contact, or whether or not the containers were washed thoroughly to prevent food allergies, etc. Although it may be tough to say ‘no’ to your friend’s delicious cookie, sometimes you must.
5) Let people know about your allergy - When purchasing food from Sodexo, always let the employees know about your food allergy so that they can take precautions when preparing your food. Some food allergens can cause a reaction when airborne so its important that people around you know about your allergy, especially if they’re preparing or eating food near you. Also, food allergens can cause a reaction when people kiss each other, so make sure your partner(s) know about it and that they can at least recall what they ate recently.
6) Stick to the foods you know - Sticking to the foods you know is a surefire way to avoid allergies. When trying a new food, always remember to take caution when eating it.
7) Always be ready in case of a reaction – Remember to always carry the equipment you need to manage your reactions at all times, regardless of how often you get a reaction. Keep in mind that the Student Health Services can manage food emergencies in the case of a reaction.
If you have a friend with a food allergy, what should you do?
1) Always know exactly what is in your food before you offer it to your friend - If you’re ever unsure if a food might cause a reaction, don’t offer it.
2) Be aware that some reactions are airbourne - Don’t open a bag of peanuts near your friend with the peanut allergy.
3) Don’t take it personally if your friend won’t eat your food - They aren’t trying to offend you by not eating your food. They’re just trying to not die.
If you’d like to learn more about managing food allergies, visit www.foodallergy.org