Some people get upset when they see Christmas displays in stores starting in September. While I roll my eyes at that, the thing that annoys me is seeing the holiday nut displays in the produce department as early as September. Those loose nuts make grocery shopping with food allergies much more dangerous for me.
Believe it or not, I actually don’t like to bring my purse to the grocery store. I think this dates back to when my children were babies and my “purse” was the diaper bag. When escaping to the grocery store by myself, I wanted to travel light. My mantra became “Keys, Wallet, Phone, List.”
I don’t know why, but back then I didn’t include my epinephrine on that list. It even took me years of mystery hives and itchiness during grocery store visits before I started using the free cart wipes.
Many of those mystery hives probably came from the inevitable cross-contamination that can occur at grocery stores. Particularly when one’s allergens are loose and easy to touch (like the loose tree nuts during what I call “Open Nut Season.”)
I can’t predict or control what surfaces people touch after bagging their own tree nuts. Long ago, I came to the conclusion that I can’t be paranoid about every surface that might be contaminated. I can’t live with that level of anxiety. So I take precautions to control what I can. And I’m happy to report that now I always carry my epinephrine to protect against the things I can’t control. “Keys, Wallet, Phone, List, Coupons, Bags, Epi.”
I don’t know why I was so dense on the subject of taking basic safety measures at the grocery store (despite my food allergies) for so long. Fortunately, it didn’t take an emergency to wake me up. Just increased awareness. And now I have some hard-earned safety tips to pass to you, so you won’t be as dense as I was. Perhaps I can even alleviate a little of your anxiety, in helping you know that you are doing the best you can to stay safe while grocery shopping with food allergies.
Carry your Epinephrine
The importance of this cannot be overstated. Epinephrine is the only drug that will shut down an anaphylactic response. And when you go into a grocery store you are literally surrounded by food. Even when you don’t intend to eat anyting, exposures can occur. So have that epinephrine handy for anytime that you need it.
This is one of the most important things you can do. Hand washing will remove any allergens you may have touched. On top of that, it’s also good hygiene and will keep you from catching everyone’s colds. I have discussed the merits of hand-washing here.
It’s also important to keep your hands away from your face when they are not clean. Allergens can enter your body through any mucous membrane. Now don’t panic, because it would take a perfect storm of allergen residue and the right touch to create a truly severe reaction. However, you can prevent minor reactions by not rubbing your eyes, picking your nose, or touching your mouth when your hands aren’t clean.