A resource for young adults living with severe allergy

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Moving Out with a Food Allergy

Top Tips For Living With Housemates

  1. Make sure that your housemates are aware of your food allergy and that they respect your dietary needs.
  2. Teach your housemates about cross-contamination and reading labels and discuss strategies to help reduce the risk.
  3. Avoid shared foods, clearly label your food.
  4. Check ingredient labels every time you purchase a food.
"Living with people who don’t have food allergy may have some challenges. Learn to cook and do the weekly supermarket shop for yourself."

LIVING OUT OF HOME

Moving out of the family home is an experience that most people in their early-mid 20’s will have. You may move away from home to study and live on campus or in nearby student housing. You may choose to move into a local share house with some friends or a partner or quite often, complete strangers.

You may end up living with someone who has never had to live with a person with food allergy before. If this is the case, you will need to be open about your food allergy and discuss with them simple strategies to manage your food allergy. Even though they will know about your food allergy, you need to remember that living with someone with a food allergy may be new to them and it may take some time for them to learn how to help you manage your food allergy.

Before deciding where you are going to live, it is important to think all things through and do some research.

Living on Campus

  • Before moving into your dorm, contact the university and ask about what living options are on offer. Universities may have college options (fully or partially catered) or self-contained apartment options available. Have a discussion with the university and choose which option is most appropriate for you.
  • If you choose to go to a college where you are catered for by the university, contact the College Supervisor about your food allergy and arrange to meet with the food service staff.
  • If you have a shared room, let your roommate know about your food allergy when you first meet them. Ask them if they could do their best not to bring the food that you are allergic to into your room to help reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Moving into a share house

Discuss your food allergy with your new house mates when you first meet them. It is important to be up-front about this early and preferably before moving in. Even if you’re moving in with a friend or someone you know quite well, make sure you remind them about the seriousness of your food allergy.
Take the time to think about who you are moving in with and make sure you are comfortable with your decision and that you feel you can trust the people you are about to live with – you are relying on your house mates to do their best to help keep you safe.

Living in a shared space

Regardless of whether you live on campus, or in a share house, you will need to learn to live in a shared space. This may be a new experience for your house mates too.

Some strategies that may help you and your house mates to manage your food allergy include:

  • Having designated cooking equipment for either yourself, OR your food allergen. Make sure these items are clearly labelled and stored away from other kitchen items (if possible).
  • Create some ‘rules’ about cleaning the kitchen.
    • Ask that after every meal/snack is prepared that utensils and crockery are rinsed thoroughly and placed straight into the dishwater (if you have one) or washed in the sink in warm soapy water.
    • If you are allergic to nuts and a nut spread has been used, wipe the knife with some paper towel to remove as much of the nut spread before rinsing.
    • The bench should also be wiped down with warm soapy water after each meal.
  • Buy your own food and clearly label it with your name. If house mates share butter, milk etc, you should purchase your own rather than sharing to ensure the foods are appropriate for you and also to ensure there’s no risk of cross contamination (e.g. in the tub of butter). Whilst your house mates may do their best, they may accidentally contaminate the butter (e.g. with nut-spread) from time to time, so it’s best to have your own food supplies.
  • Be aware that it is unlikely you will be able to remove the food you’re allergic to entirely from the house. You may have grown up in an allergen-free house when living with your parents, but it may not be like that in a share house, especially if you’re allergic to egg, milk or wheat, which are foods people commonly eat. This is why you need to be prepared and have strategies in place.
  • Make sure your house mates know where they can find your EpiPens and ASCIA Action Plan in case of emergency. Keep it in an easily accessible area of the house.

Grocery Shopping

Having to shop and cook for yourself is another new experience for many people when they move out of home. Hopefully you have had the opportunity to learn some cooking skills when at home or school. If not, ask someone who understands your food allergy to help you choose and learn how to cook some basic recipes.

You also need to be able to read food labels and make decisions about whether the food is safe for you. Check the ingredient labels on the packaged food items you are purchasing while in store every time you purchase them – even if it’s a product you regularly consume.

Product ingredients and manufacturing processes can change without warning and hidden ingredients can easily be missed.

More information about preparing food and reading food labels.

"Living with people who don’t have food allergy may have some challenges. Learn to cook and do the weekly supermarket shop for yourself."