Having a food allergy can be annoying- I should know, since I have a serious tree nut allergy. I have anaphylaxis, which means my food allergy is life-threatening due to my negative immune response if I ingest tree nuts. I carry an EpiPen-while it carries a lifesaving drug in the event of a reaction, it can be a burden to carry. In addition, food allergies can make going out to eat and shopping a stressful occasion. Allergies shouldn't always make people feel limited or unsafe. Take control, and make life easier with these pro food allergy hacks.

Hack #1: EpiPen pouch

wine, beer
Abigail Shipps

Even though EpiPens can save lives and are necessary to have if you have a serious allergy, they can be annoying to carry. In addition, they're slightly intimidating. You're basically carrying around a huge needle. To make carrying your EpiPen more manageable and less scary, put it in a pouch or pencil case. I have mine in a cute pouch by BlueQ, and I just drop it in my purse, backpack, or jacket if I'm out. 

Hack #2: Keep a toothbrush handy

beer, coffee, tea
Abigail Shipps

In addition to carrying my EpiPen and Benadryl in my zipper pouch, I also carry around a travel size toothbrush and toothpaste. If you have a reaction, you don't want it lingering around in your mouth, or else your reaction may continue. This is especially helpful if you have braces. I once ate a cookie with nuts in it when I had braces, and I had to brush my teeth in order to get the nut out of the wires.

Hack #3: Food allergy cards

If you ever travel to a foreign country where English is not the first language, it can be very nerve racking. What if the waiter doesn't understand me when I tell them I have an allergy? To prevent any miscommunication due to a language barrier, print out a lot of small cards that explain your allergy in the local language. For my family's trip to Italy, we explained my allergy in Italian on small cards that we gave to our waiter and the chef, and each time they understood my situation perfectly. 

Hack #4: Ask for the chef

There have been a few times when I was out to eat that the waiter didn't seem to fully understand what having an allergy meant in regards to treating my food order. If this ever happens, NEVER just hope for the best, ask for the chef so you can explain it to them personally that you have a serious allergy and that your food needs to be kept away from allergens. Always ensure that you will be taken care of at a restaurant because having a reaction in public isn't ideal (trust me, I know). 

Hack #5: Teach your pals

It is so important that you tell your friends about your allergy, and that you teach them how to use an EpiPen. While many of us would like to think they'll be a bad a** and stab themselves (don't get me wrong, you can totally do that), there's a chance that you may be in shock or somehow unable to use the EpiPen yourself. For your safety, the people you spend time with should know how to save your life.

Hack #6: Read labels

Abigail Shipps

This last hack may seem obvious, but always read the ingredients on a food label in addition to reading allergen warnings. Once, I ate some ravioli that had walnut flour in it, and I had a serious reaction. Even though the walnut flour was listed in the ingredients, tree nuts was not listed in bold as an allergen warning, even though wheat and dairy were. Most modern food labels do a good job of listing allergens, but it is always worth double checking.

Food allergies can make eating stressful, however they don't have to completely control your life. These food allergy hacks have gotten me through 20 years of living with an allergy, and they can help you too!