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Food Allergy Awareness Week Day 6: Fight Food Allergy Fears

Day 6: Fight Food Allergy Fears w/Facts

Fear is a present-oriented basic emotion that typically occurs as a response to a real or perceived danger/threat. Threats can be from:

  • Current situations that are perceived as dangerous or distressing

  • Disturbing thoughts, feelings, or memories occurring inside of you

Fear is often associated with a sudden onset of central nervous system changes, such as rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, breathlessness, or dizziness. Additionally, when someone feels fear, they're typically more hyper-focused on the things that elicit the fear. Fear is a perfectly normal and adaptive emotion under most circumstances, as it can motivate and prepare someone to fight or flee a dangerous situation.

However, when fear increases to levels that negatively impact daily life, is present in the absence of threats, or causes excessive avoidance behaviors, it's no longer a healthy level of fear. Constantly elevated levels of fear can throw even the most limber person off-balance!

When managing food allergies, real and perceived threats pop up often, sometimes daily. Additionally, it's common to be thinking about potential food allergy threats even when not currently dealing with one.

So what can people do to help tame and manage food allergy fears?

One Tool To Fight Food Allergy Fears Is...KNOWLEDGE!

Is it truly that simple - knowledge takes care of food allergy fears? 

NoHowever, knowledge is an important tool in the Food Allergy Fear Tool Kit that individuals and families need to build in order to fight back against and ultimately manage fear levels.

Other crucial tools needed in the Food Allergy Fear Tool Kit:

  • Psycho-education to develop an understanding of anxiety and fear Self-monitoring skills to gain insight into thoughts, feelings, behaviors

  • Thought-reframing techniques (i.e. thought challenging, self-talk, reality testing)

  • Problem-solving skills to navigate tough scenarios and decisions

  • Relaxation skills for moments of intense emotion affecting both mind/body

For this article, let's focus on building your knowledge tool. One caveat that needs to be made about this tool is that you want to be sure that it is formed primarily with material that is evidence-based in nature. That is, the information comes from reputable sources within the food allergy community, such as allergists, healthcare professionals, or well-respected food allergy organizations or groups. (While information gleaned from health support groups can be valuable, it's best to confirm information with your personal allergist and evidence-based resources).

Below are four links to information addressing common fear-producing topics, as well as a general list of reputable food allergy information sources.

  1. Fear of Actual Use of Epinephrine: This Twitter thread from Dr. George du Toit explores the concept of patients electing to practice self-administration of their epinephrine autoinjector at their allergist's office as a means to decrease/demystify the fear surrounding what it might feel like. (This practice can be very empowering. Discuss/plan with your personal allergist).

  2. Random Hives - Are They from Exposure to an Allergen?: Dr. Dave Stukus shared a handy chart during a food allergy Twitter chat that explains the main factors and timing to help determine if hives are food allergy-related or not.

  3. When and For What Symptoms to Use Epinephrine: Even with the Emergency Action Plan we receive and review with our allergist, there's often hesitation and confusion around when and for what symptoms to use epinephrine. Dr. Brian Schroer did an amazing job explaining answers to these questions via a fire analogy. This is a must-read!

  4. Best Practices for Diagnosing a Food Allergy: Diagnosing a food allergy isn't always straightforward. In fact, with all of the information needed to make an accurate diagnosis - blood tests, skin prick tests, instances of eating the allergen, and reaction history - it's a bit like putting a puzzle together. Dr. Dave Stukus, who aims to dispel food allergy/immunology-related myths, shares how he diagnoses a food allergy, in a step-by-step tutorial. He also highlights testing and actions he doesn't take, as they often prove more harmful than helpful.

Reputable Food Allergy Information Sources:

In case you missed the other Food Allergy Awareness Week mental health-focused tips, find them via links here: Day 1 & 2 (FA Support Groups & FA Mindset); Day 3: FA Thinking Errors Connected w/Anxiety; Day 4: Food Allergy Anxiety Resources;  Day 5: Problem-Solving Method When Fear Rules Your Mind

If you find yourself needing support for food allergy-related psychosocial impacts, locate a food allergy-knowledgeable clinical behavioral healthcare provider via the Food Allergy Counselor Directory.


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