Allergies: living with an allergy

Dealing with an allergy in everyday life is a balancing act. On the one hand, it is important that allergy sufferers are aware of the problem, take precautions and avoid the allergen as much as possible. This reduces symptoms, discomfort and the need for medication, and reduces the chance of a serious allergic reaction. On the other hand, there is a danger that so many precautions are taken that daily life becomes very limited. Many people with allergies get into the habit of adding the word allergy to all plans or appointments they make. A day outside, a dinner at a friend’s house, a vacation, a trip to the mall to buy food or household items can all lead to exposure to the allergen. It is important to anticipate whether exposure is likely and take precautions, such as taking antihistamines with you .

Allergies at home

People spend a lot of time at home – and that is where they have the most control over their environment. For many types of allergies, people can take practical precautions at home to avoid exposure to allergens . With perennial rhinitis, caused by an allergy to dust mite feces, it is important to clean extra carefully to remove dust from all nooks and crannies. A vacuum cleaner with an allergen filter is more effective than a regular vacuum cleaner.
Dust-proof covers on mattresses, duvets and pillows, and air and dust filters can also be useful.
If you have a food allergy , it is important to check all foods in cupboards, refrigerators and freezers for the allergenic ingredient. When shopping, all packaging should be checked to ensure that the allergen is not present in any of the products. Labeling rules are gradually improving in this regard. For example, in most countries it must be clearly stated that a food may contain nuts or traces of nuts.
There are similar practical tips for other allergies. It is helpful if family members and friends understand the problems of someone with an allergy, by offering ideas and keeping an eye on when exposure to the allergen may occur.

Away from home

Many allergy sufferers worry less about being at home than about being out and about, where they have less control over their environment. Someone could come into contact with allergens at school, university, work and on holiday.
Taking simple precautions such as taking allergy medicine with you ensures that a holiday is safe, pleasant… and fun!

Think ahead

So it is good to think ahead and make plans before departure to minimize exposure to allergens. If you want to eat in a restaurant, it is advisable to call in advance and discuss your food allergy. The chef will probably be able to offer alternative dishes. This way you avoid discovering in the restaurant that it is difficult to choose a dish, which could spoil an enjoyable outing.
With any allergy, thinking ahead helps avoid situations where the patient is put in an unpleasant position because he or she needs special treatment. This draws unwanted attention to the allergy and can make the allergy sufferer feel guilty. For most types of allergies, there are lists of protective measures, precautions and useful tools that can reduce exposure to allergens.
This is especially useful in places where people spend a lot of time, such as classrooms and workplaces. Schools, colleges and employers usually have a legal duty to take serious allergies into account, although rules vary from area to area. A child suffering from severe hay fever can avoid exposure to pollen if they are allowed to remain in the school building during hay fever season. Someone with a food allergy can ensure that this is taken into account when preparing meals at school or work – as can people with other dietary requirements, such as people with diabetes.