Since we typically tend to avoid even thinking about the possibility of a reaction and the reaction “What ifs?!”, it usually feels even harder to process a reaction if it DOES happen.
The truth is, after a reaction, especially if it was anaphylactic, we may feel as if we’ve been thrown way off course - maybe even sent right back to how we felt upon diagnosis. We may experience a loss of trust in others, labels, and even our own allergy skills....or ourselves.
And even though we can visualize where we want to get back to - a place of confidently navigating allergies again - we may struggle to find our way back there.
Know that this is a normal response to an allergic reaction! But even knowing this still may not make us feel better about the post-reaction fear and uncertainty we experience, and the time it is taking to work through it. We dislike discomfort, and therefore, we want to get back to our comfort zone ASAP!
Enter the T.R.AC.E. tool!
I created T.R.A.C.E. in 2019 to serve as a "compass back to confidence" after someone has a food allergy reaction or allergic condition flare up, and debuted it at the 2nd Annual Food Allergy Conference for Education and Science - FACES (and FYI - the 2022 FACES Conference is in June!)
The T.R.A.C.E. tool offers reminders to keep us grounded during the post-reaction rebuilding phase. The truth is that it takes time - sometimes more time than we want - to process the reaction and make sense of how we move forward. And we need to give ourselves that space and time to process things, but sometimes feel lost during that timeframe.
Therefore, using the T.R.A.C.E tool gives you tangible actions to take during these processing and rebuilding phases. And while we may think this information seems like common sense, sometimes common sense escapes us when we’re anxious, stressed or traumatized! Therefore, it's good to have this available, just in case.
If you want to keep the T.R.A.C.E. tool handy, or want to share with your patients, you can find a free PDF download of this tool on the “Worksheets” page, or use this direct URL: www.FoodAllergyAnxiety.com
Looking for more on the topic of working through emotions and thoughts after anaphylaxis? Check these resources out, too:
Remember, support is out there if you need it! Don't forget to check out the Food Allergy Counselor Directory, the Exploring Food Allergy Families podcast, the Food Allergy Behavioral Health Resource section, and the allergy-specific therapeutic worksheets. And if you're an allergy-informed therapy provider, then visit the Provider page!
----> And don't forget to sign up to receive helpful allergy psychosocial tips and updates via email! Subscribers also get the free "Allergy Anxiety and Overwhelm Mini Guide".
You've likely heard the term "oral food challenge" mentioned by your allergist or in online food allergy support groups. But if you haven't, here's a quick primer from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology on oral food challenges:
What is an oral food challenge?
An oral food challenge (OFC), or feeding test, is a medical procedure in which a food is eaten slowly, in gradually increasing amounts, under medical supervision, to accurately diagnose or rule out a true food allergy.
What are the reasons to perform an OFC?
OFCs are usually done when a careful medical history and allergy tests, such as skin and blood tests, are inconclusive. The OFC is a more definitive test because it will show whether the food ingested produces no symptoms or triggers a reaction.
Oral Food Challenge (OFC) Anxiety and Worry:
Given that during oral food challenges you are eating a food that you may potentially be allergic to or have previously been allergic to, it's no surprise that you may feel anxious and worried in anticipation of that appointment - many do. Our mind wants to keep us safe, so an oral food challenge can feel like a potential threat to our mind when we think about it. Therefore, it's normal and appropriate to experience anxiety about oral food challenges. However, it's important to remember that you don't need to interpret that anxiety to mean that the oral food challenge will result in the worst case scenario.
What Helps OFC Anxiety and Worry?
When you experience increased anticipatory anxiety - that is, anxiety about a future event, it can be helpful to prepare for the event in order to to increase readiness and decrease fear.
Here is a brief list of ways to prepare ahead of time for your or your child's oral food challenge:
Additional Resources and Tips to Help Manage OFC Anxiety
Be sure to listen to Episode 14 of Exploring Food Allergy Families called, "Tips for Managing Oral Food Challenge Anxiety & Worry". In this episode, fellow allergy-informed therapist Fawn McNeil-Haber, PhD and I discuss helpful strategies for navigating oral food challenges. We offer preparation tips and guidance on navigating anxiety and mindsets prior to and during the food challenge. Here are specific topics we explore in this episode:
You can listen via your favorite podcast app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and iHeartRadio. Don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss future episodes!
ORAL FOOD CHALLENGE PREPARATION WORKSHEETS:
Check out these Oral Food Challenge worksheets which help prepare before the appointment, offer helpful reminders for the day of, and prompts for processing after the food challenge. (There are separate worksheets for kids and teens/adults). Also check out this post on a post-anaphylaxis tool known as T.R.A.C.E, which is a compass guiding you back to confidence after allergic reactions.
You can find these worksheets on the Therapeutic Worksheets page here on the Food Allergy Counselor website.
Hopefully reading this and checking out the podcast, worksheets and other resources offers you some reassurance that oral food challenge-related anxiety is normal and manageable. Don't hesitate to reach out and let me know if these tips have helped you or your patients, or to share tips of your own! And if you're looking for an allergy-informed therapist in your state (many of whom provide telehealth to residents of their state), visit the Food Allergy Counselor Directory.
You can connect with me on Twitter (@TherapistTamara and @FACounselor), Instagram (@TherapistTamara & @FoodAllergyCounselor) and Facebook (@FoodAllergyCounselor and @TamaraHubbardLCPC).
Thanks for reading!
I'm very excited about this announcement. Not only does it relate to topics I am passionate about, but it's also a resource that I think will be enjoyable to listen to and learn from.
So why did I create this podcast?
Well, you'll have to listen to the brief preview episode to hear that answer!
But I'll share why I think you'll enjoy this new podcast....
Exploring Food Allergy Families is a podcast with real talk, relatable conversations, and practical tips focused on navigating the impacts that food allergies have on families, mental health, and emotional well-being. Building resilience and an empowered mindset are key pillars of this podcast.
With episode lengths of 30 minutes or less, they're perfect to listen to while going for a run, walking the dog, or enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning (or wine at night)!
This podcast aims to share and explore:
Also, for episodes focused on skill-building and strategies, there will be additional follow up resources available on this website for those topics, should you want to apply and practice the concepts discussed.
So there you have it! Check out the first episode - a short preview and introduction, which explains why I decided this podcast was so important.
Then be sure to subscribe to Exploring Food Allergy Families (wherever you listen to podcasts) so you don't miss future episodes!
Trust me, you won't want to miss any episodes, especially the next one, Exploring Food Allergy Dads' Experiences, where I will share insights from the recent survey, relevant guidance/tips, and chat with one of these amazing food allergy dads!
So, let's explore food allergy families together!
Podcast Episode site: https://exploringfoodallergyfamilies.buzzsprout.com/
Podcast Info: www.FoodAllergyFamilies.com (or Podcast section on this website )
- Your feedback is a gift that I truly value, so please feel free to share thoughts, topic ideas,
or feedback on whether topics explored on the podcast have been helpful. -
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