Although most food allergies develop during childhood, they can develop at any time throughout life. There are no clear reasons for food allergies in seniors. They start with a sudden allergy to a food they had no problem with previously. When that happens, it is unlikely for them to outgrow the allergy, just as some children do. More and more older adults develop food allergies in their later years. Since they have lower immunity levels, it can lead to severe consequences. It is essential to be aware of the symptoms and determine the type of food that caused the allergy.
Symptoms of Food Allergy
The most common foods that trigger allergies are Nuts (Peanuts and Tree Nuts), Shellfish, and Fin Fish. An allergic reaction can push your loved one’s immune system into overdrive and impact their organs. Please do not ignore any allergy reaction to food, no matter how small it may seem. Allergic reactions can escalate with time.
Mild allergy symptoms may look like hives, nose congestion or sneezing, or redness of the eyes or skin. Severe allergy symptoms can be life-threatening; look out for breathlessness, swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat, drop in blood pressure, or even Anaphylaxis.
Read Food Labels and Ingredient Lists
It is imperative to steer completely clear of that food for known allergies. Please read the labels and ingredient lists to make sure they do not contain any traces of the food because even the slightest amounts can cause severe reactions. Some common ingredients contain allergens, of which we are unaware. Below is a list of some of those ingredients:
Common ingredients with unexpected Peanut allergens:
- A substitute flour known as Lupin or lupine
- Arachis oil (peanut oil)
- Madelonas (almond-flavored peanuts)
Common ingredients with unexpected Shellfish allergens:
- Fish Stock
Common ingredients with unexpected fin fish allergens:
- Worcestershire sauce
- Barbecue sauce
- Caesar salad/dressing
- Imitation fish
Use Alternatives When Preparing Food
There are plenty of food options to choose alternative ingredients for your loved one. Instead of peanut butter, opt for nut butter like almond or walnut. Seed butter from pumpkin and sunflower are great alternatives for people with peanut and tree nut allergies. Need to avoid shellfish and finfish? Then go with chicken, beef, lentils, beans, or egg. These are suitable ingredients to cook a healthy dinner for your loved one.
Using an EpiPen
An epinephrine pen or EpiPen is a medication to reduce the severity of allergic reactions. It helps relax muscles in the airway, stomach, and bladder; it also reverses the fall in blood pressure. However, using an EpiPen is not a substitute for seeing a doctor or going to the hospital. It is essential to store the Epipen at room temperature in its carrier tube until needed.
Symptoms of food allergy can range from mild to severe; it can be life-threatening. If your loved one has a food allergy, it is crucial to inform everyone on their care and support team. An assisted living community like SummerHouse Vista Shores can customize food menu options to accommodate your loved one’s allergy.