For the millions of Americans living with a food allergy, a workplace tradition as simple as eating a slice of mid-week birthday cake, or meeting a client for lunch, comes with a slew of worries and insecurities. But learning to navigate the workplace with a food allergy—whether mild or debilitating—doesn’t have to be a scary, arduous task. Here are some tips for employees that can make living and working with a food allergy a lot easier.
1. Be Informed
As many as 15 million American have food allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma And Immunology. The top 8 allergens in the United States—cows milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish and shellfish—account for about 90% of all food-allergic reactions. Chances are, you’re not the only one in your workplace with a food allergy or intolerance. Knowing your food limitations, as well as those of your coworkers, can make for a safer, more enjoyable environment for your entire company.
2. Let it be known
Bosses and coworkers need to be aware of your allergens so they don’t expose you to them, and so they know what to do in case of an emergency. For many people, revving up the courage to make this essential step is a difficult process. They may worry their coworkers and boss will think they’re overdramatic or weak. But your safety is more important than worrying about saving face, and if your boss is worth her salt, she’ll listen.
Consider creating a company-wide spreadsheet that coworkers can list foods they are allergic to. Also, take an active role in planning parties and other events so you can make sure there are safe food options for everyone.
3. Keep an epi pen in an agreed-upon area
If you need an epinephrine auto-injector to combat severe reactions, make sure you keep one at the office, and at teach at least one other person how to operate it in case of an emergency.
4. Educate the office
Some leaders in the allergic community recommend arranging a short PowerPoint presentation to facilitate discussion about common hazards that come with food allergies. Alternatively, you can create a brochure with some “frequently asked questions” about food allergies to pass out to coworkers.
Tips for Employers
1. Pay attention
Keep a running list of office allergies that every employee has access to. Send occasional memos encouraging new employees to add to the list, and existing employees to make note of any changes.
2. Implement company policy
Some allergies are so severe that a reaction can occur just from coming into contact with someone who has eaten an offending food, so bosses need to take proactive action in banning foods from certain work areas and, in some cases, the entire premises. If an employee has a severe food allergy, post clear signs at entrances to the building alerting workers and visitors of the ban.
3. Keep food allergies in mind throughout the year
When planning events, parties and office outings, make sure restaurants and caterers can make special requests or have allergen-free food so those with allergies don’t feel isolated from the rest of the office.
CATEGORIES: Allergy, Intolerance, Office, Workplace, Safety, Food Safety, Company Policy, Diet Restrictions