Food allergy diagnosis is hard to believe. How could something that is good for you… actually be bad for you? And while patients and their caregivers often go through a grieving process before they fully accept their newly diagnosed condition, not all of them complete the process successfully.
Some live in constant fear of an unexpected anaphylactic attack, withdrawing themselves from society or becoming over protective, causing additional stress to those who love and interact with them. Other patients simply aren’t educated enough about their condition and may not realize where the real risks are. For those who self-diagnose their allergies, there is even more room for error and hypochondria.
Some allergies pose a higher risk of life threatening reactions while others may actually be able to be tolerated on occasion and managed with minor side effects. Still, this vast range of varying symptoms are correctly labeled “allergies” (as opposed to an intolerance) if the body’s immune system is what is initiating the reaction to the allergen.
These issues cause of a lot of confusion and mistrust when it comes to food allergy treatment plans, especially for those who are asked to accommodate people with food allergies. Unfortunately, this causes those who suffer from the more severe allergies to be at a greater risk of being taken seriously, which can not only lead to bullying, but can also cause extreme pain as well as pose life-threatening risks to the allergy sufferer.
Because there is no cookie cutter approach to allergies (each patient experiences different symptoms and of a different severity to each food specifically), and because we are still uncovering more scientific information about allergies, it is not enough to just say to a patient, “avoid this food”, and send them away in a panic.
Doctors need to be proactive about creating a specific plan with each patient based on their specific diagnosis and current mental state which includes:
1. Emergency and First Aid Procedures
2. Suggested Safe Foods and Meal Plans
3. Communication Plans for Schools, Extended Family Members, and Other Acquaintances
4. Available Resources for Safety and Food Products
5. Available Resources for Coping and Support
Where it may not be practical for a general practitioner to create such specific plans, referrals need to be given to allergists, nutritionists, and mental health professionals. Then, the doctor should continue to follow up with the patient to ensure they are making the transition to their new lifestyle effectively.