In every purse, book bag and suitcase a neon pink box of Benedryl resides...just in case.

Just in case the waiter doesn't know what he's talking about and my dish is made with something that has milk in it. Just in case that salad dressing actually had remains of milk protein in it. Just in case they didn't wash the silverware well enough and something got cross contaminated.

I've been doing this dance with my milk allergy for over four years now. When I was 16, I became lactose intolerant, which later led to a full blown milk allergy. Don't ask me why, because to be honest, nobody really knows why it got worse—it just did.

This is the card I've been handed and here's what I've learned along the way.

1. Check the ingredients on everything.

This sounds like it would be a no-brainer. But when you first find out you have a common allergy, like a milk allergy, it's hard to remember to check everything. I've found bread, fried rice packets, cereal, cookies, salad dressings and about 1,000 other things that shouldn't have milk, but do for some strange reason. 

Save yourself the hassle and pain, and just check the ingredients. I know it might take awhile, but it ends up being worth it. Trust me.

2. Bring food to share.

I learned this the hard way. You go to a Christmas party or a birthday party and of course, the cake will have milk mixed into every dessert there.

Do yourself a favor and bring a treat for yourself and others that you know will sit well with you. This way you won't feel left out and you'll get to show off your baking skills. 

3. Let your waiter/waitress know you have an allergy.

At first, this may seem unnecessary and cumbersome, but if you stress how ill you'll get if they give you something with what you're allergic to, they'll be much more careful when handling your food. 

Also, most servers are usually willing to make you something special because of your allergy. My go-to's at steakhouses and other places that have limited dairy-free food are pasta with red sauce (but make sure the red sauce is okay) and rice with mixed vegetables.

4. Find restaurants that are allergen-free.

This is a big one. If you live in the suburbs or in the city, chances are you can find restaurants that don't carry what you're allergic to at all, especially if you have a common allergy. 

Usually these places are little holes in the wall, but they're meant for people like you and me who care about that extra attention to detail. Some of the common places I've seen that do this are usually nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free or some combination of the three above. 

5. Carry snacks everywhere you go.

My final tip for you is to bring snacks that you can take on the go. Although planning is key when you have a milk allergy, sometimes things happen that are out of your control. In those cases, it's good to have something stashed away in your bag or purse to munch on if you end up somewhere that can't serve you.

Above all else, always ask. Don't be afraid of seeming annoying; this is your health on the line.