How to help a friend with allergies

Most people know someone with an allergy, but most don’t actually know what this means for them, how they can help, and what to do if an anaphylactic reaction occurs. Below are some tips to help both you and your friend with their allergy.

• Any food can cause an allergic reaction. According to the NHS, the most common food allergies in children are to milk, eggs, peanuts, treenuts, fish and shellfish. In adults, the foods that most commonly causes allergic reactions include peanuts, treenuts, fruits, fish and shellfish. Often, people do not realise that allergens can turn up in foods where you’d least expect it.

This means that ingredients must always be checked every time something is bought, as sometimes recipes are changed.

• Foods that don’t contain allergens themselves can be contaminated if someone accidentally touches it who has previously touched an allergen, or if the food was prepared in a place where an allergen has previously been. On packaging, if a food has been made in a factory where an allergen is used, it is usually stated.

• Talk to your friend. This will help them to feel more at ease, especially if you get to know the specifics of their reactions, and the foods they are allergic to. Most symptoms come on straight away – a rash, tingling in the mouth or lips, or trouble breathing, however, some can take longer to appear.

• Learn from previous experience with your friend. The more familiar you are with what could happen, the quicker you will be able identify the reaction, and therefore react quicker to take action.

• Encourage your friend to speak up when experiencing a reaction, and to always take their adrenaline auto-injector (the common brands are EpiPen, Jext and Emerade). Watch the video below.

• Ask your friend to show you how to use their adrenaline auto-injector, as this may save their life in an emergency. Instructions can be found herehere and here

• Don’t let your friend brush off symptoms, take action and get help.

• The most important thing you can do is to take your friend’s allergy seriously. In some situations, your friend may not be paying attention, and put themselves in danger, and drinking alcohol can also interfere with their ability to make sensible decisions.

If you have an allergy, please share this around with your friends, as you never know: one day, they could save your life.