I will be the first to admit that I was not very careful with my food allergies during college. I was lucky to only have one or two allergic reactions throughout the entire 4 years. Each time Benadryl took care of my reaction and I never had to go to the hospital. However, it could have been much worse.
Starting college is difficult. Starting college and having food allergies is even more difficult. You are your own line of defense against an allergic reaction. There will no longer be your school or parents taking responsibility for protecting you.
There are a few things you can do to make the transition a little easier, and possibly save your life. Here are 5 ways to keep yourself safer every day.
1. Tell people about your allergy
Tell your roommate. Tell your neighbors. Tell anyone you spend a lot of time with. The more people that know, the safer you will be. If people know, then they will be able to help you if you are having an allergic reaction. They will also know not to give you foods that might cause an allergic reaction. Your friends are your second line of defense when you miss something. I know that it can seem like an embarrassing thing to tell someone, but in reality it is not, and it can save your life.
2. Have your medicine
Keep your epinephrine auto-injectors and Benadryl in easy to find places. Keep them in your backpack. Keep them somewhere easy to find in your room. Try to keep one on you at all times. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep your Epi-Pen on you, especially if you are just hanging out with friends. Try to have a small purse or a pocket that can hold it. I highly suggest getting an Auvi-Q rather than an Epi-Pen. It fits in most pockets, so it is easy to carry with you. Make sure that people know that you carry epinephrine.
3.Ask before you eat
Don’t be afraid to ask if your allergen is in something before you eat it. This seems obvious, but can become more difficult in college. Food is everywhere in college, not just in restaurants. There are food giveaways, friends with snacks, etc. You are around a ton of new people and it can feel embarrassing to ask, but you have to eat! (If the person handing out the food can’t guarantee that the food is safe for you, then of course don’t eat it.)
One of my biggest allergy mistakes in college was accepting some ice cream without looking at the label, or even really asking what was in it. My first bite, a big walnut. It was Chunky Monkey. I spit it out immediately, so luckily didn’t swallow any. I didn’t have any Benadryl, and couldn’t find any. A friend drove me and bought some at the corner store, and then we sat in the parking lot of the health center until the Benadryl kicked in. The whole experience was scary, and very stupid on my part.
4.Know where to go in an emergency
Look up where the closest ER is and know how to get there. Find your campus health clinic and memorize the hours. Have a friend you can count on to take you if necessary. (of course, take an ambulance if you need to)
5.Find an Allergist
If you are going to college far from home, then you may want to find an allergist near your college that takes your insurance. A new patient appointment can take over a month to get. If you have a reaction, you are going to want to see an allergist as soon as possible. If you think that you will need an established allergist in your area it is best to become a patient before an emergency so you can get an appointment when needed.
These are just general every day tips for living with your food allergies at college. You should of course make whatever arrangements you need for safe meals at the school cafeteria.
How are you dealing with food allergies while in college? What are your best tips?