• Anik Elsi

Food Allergies during COVID-19

Well-Being Check-in

I hope everyone is doing well during our current situation: COVID-19, a GLOBAL pandemic, and that everyone is taking the proper precautions, like washing your hands, keeping six feet apart, and covering your mouth when you cough.


We should also do what we need to take care of our emotions and mental health, and be mindful of those of our family and friends. Most of us have not spent this much time inside, and that sudden change can take a toll.


Food Allergies and Their Impact During COVID

According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), food allergies are a serious and potentially life-threatening medical condition affecting 32 million Americans. They happen when your immune system overreacts to a harmless food protein or allergen.


The top 8 allergens are eggs, dairy, peanut, fish, wheat, soy, tree nuts, and shellfish. Think of how many foods contain these allergens


or are cross-contaminated with them.


For people with food allergies or dietary restrictions, this time has been especially challenging. Grocery stores are not as dependable as they once were and run out of many items, especially those specialty items that people with allergies depend on. A limited diet is narrowed even further.


My Allergy Story

I have multiple food allergies, including all of the above (except shellfish) plus corn, tomatoes, lettuce, and black pepper.


I didn't even know I had food allergies until high school when my face began to break and out and I suffered from severe digestive issues. Noticing these symptoms, my mom took me to an allergist who performed a prick test on my back. After getting details about your food history and the reactions you've noticed. They draw a grid on your back and insert a small number of each of your allergens into a section of th


e grid. Then after 30 minutes record the size of the reaction. According to my doctor, "It's not good to score 100 percent on all tests", meaning that I was allergic to everything he tested me for.


These food allergies made my college experience difficult. I struggled to find foods that I could eat on campus, and the staff was poorly trained on food allergies and cross-contamination. For example, they would use the same spoons for different food items, which, of course, would


lead to allergic reactions. Eventually, I gave up on the dining halls and was forced to cook my own meals. This worked for the one year that I had access to a kitchen, but when I didn't have that access, I did the best I could with a microwave and canned goods.


Experience has taught me much about my food allergies, and I'm more skilled at managing them. I've even found some restaurants where I can eat. Some allergy-friendly national chains are Qdoba, Chipotle, and Brazillian BBQs. On the list of Charleston favorites, I have to list Verde and EVO Pizzeria. Recommend these places to a food allergy friend!


In a food allergy world, we need more advocates. To learn more about food allergies and how to be more mindful of them, visit FARE's website at https://www.foodallergy.org/.

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