When a patron or co-worker has a severe allergic reaction, it happens quickly and can be life-threatening. Since it is estimated that between one and two out of every 100 people is at risk for a severe allergic reaction to food or other substances, it is crucial that you take steps to avoid these dangerous reactions, and that you know how to recognize them and what to do to if you are on the scene when a person starts to have a reaction.
What Triggers Allergic Reactions?
Food is one of the most common causes of severe allergic reactions, called anaphylaxis. Nearly any food can trigger an allergic reaction. However, many times no specific cause can be found. A reaction may occur minutes, or even hours, after the person has consumed the food.
Severe reactions can occur in anyone—even adults with no history of allergic reaction. However, those people with a history of previous severe reactions and those with asthma are most at risk for life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Foods that are often identified as allergens include peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, nuts, fish and shellfish. These ingredients or anything that comes into contact with them can cause severe allergic reactions. Talk to your supervisor to identify items on the menu that include these ingredients or that may be contaminated with these items even if they are not listed as ingredients.
Catering to Allergy-prone Patrons
If a patron informs you of a food allergy, always assume it is a life-or-death matter—it could be. Upon request, be ready to provide a complete list of ingredients for anything we serve. It is our legal responsibility to give accurate information about possible food allergens. When in doubt about a dish, do not serve it!
In food preparation, exercise extreme caution when working with these potentially allergenic substances. Never reuse a utensil, dish or cutting board that has touched any of these common allergens, for example.
Recognizing a Severe Reaction
A severe allergic reaction is characterized by any of all of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath or tightness of chest
- Difficulty breathing
- Sneezing, wheezing or coughing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swelling of eyes, lips, face, tongue, throat or elsewhere
- Low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Blueness around lips, inside lips, eyelids
- Sweating and anxiety
- Itching, raised red rash
- Skin flushing or extreme pallor
- Involuntary bowel or bladder action
- Nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea
- Burning sensation, especially face or chest
- Loss of consciousness
Of course, having just one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean a person is having an allergic reaction, but it is a good indication.
Treating a Reaction
Allergic reactions must be treated with epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. The most important aspect of treatment is to respond quickly. You should be prepared to administer it immediately at all times. Ask your supervisor for the location of the epinephrine, and periodically check the supply.
If you suspect a patron or co-worker is experiencing an allergic reaction, prepare the epinephrine, even if you are unsure. It is safer to give the person the epinephrine than to delay treatment. After administering epinephrine, call 911 immediately and arrange for follow-up care.
Be sure to contact Joseph M Wiedemann & Sons, Inc. to find out more restaurant safety tips and for “Peace of Mind” on your insurance needs.