AllergyHome is excited to re-introduce Anne Russell, BSN, RN, AE-C, an AllergyHome expert contributor who has specialized in food allergy for over 20 years after clinical and administrative experience in Pediatrics, Critical Intensive Care and Neonatology. She has shared her expertise and passion with countless children, families, members of allergy clinic teams and patient advocacy groups. Her dedication to constant improvement to healthcare and patient/family education is awe inspiring. We are honored to have her insight. Thank you Anne for sharing.
Preparing For A Food Allergy Office Visit & Partnering with Your Clinic Team
Written by: Anne F. Russell BSN, RN, AE-C (click here for full bio)
“Bundling up a child and taking them in for a clinic visit can be stressful! Whether for a routine check-up or because they are ill – it can lead to anxiety.”
Preparing beforehand, especially for new patient visits or routine follow-up visits, may help you maximize services received. It can also help to use the allotted time efficiently and productively for all involved.
Maximizing Food Allergy Clinical Services: Be prepared
- Bring a list of questions & medical updates. This may include a written description of an allergic reaction to suspected food(s) that prompted a referral to the food allergy clinical team. This report may then be scanned and included in your child’s electronic medical record.
- Bring a list of current medications (include name & dose), vitamin supplements, homeopathic or naturopathic therapies used at home
- Bring a list of prescriptions needing refills
- Bring a copy of the recipe and/or food ingredient labels of suspected allergy triggers. This information helps when determining diagnostic testing.
- Bring business contact information if an allergic reaction occurred from restaurant, school or airline food. Members of the clinic team may need this information to contact the school and/or business directly. If unable to bring meal ingredient lists, bring a menu copy or cafeteria meal listing for the day.
- Bring a family member or friend to hear clinic team recommendations and/or to provide support. When stressed or anxious you may not hear or absorb all being said.
- If possible, leave siblings at home or in the waiting room so everyone can focus attention on one child during the appointment.
- Avoid bringing snacks to use as a distraction with your child. Many clinics no longer allow foods in exam and waiting rooms to minimize allergen exposures & promote cleanliness. Bring toys or books instead!
More Tips to Help Increase Effectiveness of the Food Allergy Office Visit
- Request a longer appointment if you have multiple questions & concerns. Often, clinics have set time-frames for ‘new patient’ visits and ‘sick patient’ visits. Typically, the new patient visits are allotted more time. Ask about these pre-determined time-frames when you schedule your appointment.
- Prioritize issues to address
- Consider providing your question list prior to the appointment.
- Provide medical records from other hospitals or clinics as needed prior to the appointment. When able to do so, it helps physicians and nurses review aspects of your child’s case before your clinic visit.
- If possible, complete any new patient questionnaires and submit them before the appointment.
- Bring materials to take notes.
- Bring copies of school or camp forms that need completion by the clinic team. Be sure you have already filled in the parent/caregiver portions.
- Make appointments for school physicals early in the summer. It takes time to complete food allergy related school forms. Aim to have all school paperwork and prescriptions complete several weeks before the academic year begins.
Food & Symptom Journal
There may be times a physician or nurse recommends you keep a journal logging any symptoms associated with food eaten (e.g. eczema flares, rashes, nausea). It may be hard to know which food is causing a reaction. The completed journal can provide valuable information on consistent patterns. This can help with medical history taking and diagnosis. It also is helpful for organizing your thoughts and concerns to discuss at appointments with your food allergy clinic team.
If a food causes serious symptoms or anaphylaxis then follow your food allergy emergency care plan, strictly avoid the food and contact your clinic team.
For more information on a food and symptom journal, click here.
Navigating the healthcare system can be tricky. It may appear massive and complex. It involves multiple professionals, departments, policies, hospitals, regulating agencies and more. Insurance coverage programs may create additional challenges – but that’s a different post!
Don’t be shy about asking questions and clarifying any assumptions. Your food allergy clinic team will want to partner with you to be sure you understand medical terms, procedures, medications, diagnostic tests and plans that can assist you with daily food allergy management.
Topics Covered During Food Allergy Office Visits May Include:
- Referrals to specialists. Accurate and timely diagnosis is critical. Multiple inter-disciplinary teams may need to co-manage children with allergies & asthma. Nurses may coordinate care between the separate teams.
- Medications or procedures prescribed or provided during the appointment
- How to access your child’s medical records
- When to return for routine follow-up appointments
- What parameters should prompt a call for evaluation
- Preferred form of communication. Nurses, physicians & nutritionists may have direct email access as well as direct phone lines and/or pagers. Others prefer online communication through a clinic website or indirect communication through receptionists or medical assistants.
- Hospital affiliations should your child ever need to be admitted
- Payment and insurance coverage policies
Discussion Points During a Food Allergy Office Visit May Also Include:
- Referrals to clinical nurse patient educators, nurse case managers and nutritionists. These medical professionals may only be available part-time or as consultants. They may also have multiple administrative, clinical and/or research responsibilities.
- Personalized education on daily food allergy management from nurses and physicians – including review and sharing of take-home patient education materials and resources.
- Information on whether the clinic runs group patient education classes and/or a support group. Physicians and nurses may also be involved as medical advisors to local food allergy support groups and can direct you to trusted resources. Clinical team members may also provide outreach community health education (e.g. for schools) and may be able to assist you with such needs.
- Information on whether the clinic team utilizes social media or newsletters for general educational updates.
- Opportunities for participation in food allergy clinical research.
- When prescribed injectable epinephrine: Expect that a nurse or physician will discuss the medication with you and review its purpose, indications for use and how to use the device. By having you demonstrate back to them how to use the epinephrine autoinjector, it helps all involved to determine if more practice would be helpful prior to you leaving the clinic.
- When provided a food allergy/anaphylaxis emergency care plan: Expect that a nurse or physician will thoroughly review its contents and guidelines for steps to take should anaphylaxis occur. Discussion may include potential scenarios involving different settings, (e.g. home, restaurant, church). Do not hesitate to call back with questions and/or to request additional in-person education sessions if needed.
- Prognosis: Expect that the physician and nurse will explain diagnostic test results, physical exam findings and significant medical history information when reviewing long-term outlook and medical management of specific food allergens. Anaphylaxis is always potentially life-threatening and requires thorough discussion.
Creating a Partnership with your Food Allergy Clinical Team
Be a role model for your child. They will learn to interact with healthcare professionals from observing you! Practice good communication.
Think of it this way – you have hired a clinic team to provide health services for your child. You and the clinic team have a shared goal of optimal health for your child. You and your child are at the center of the team!
Author’s note: Clinic models vary. Tips shared in this article are meant as examples, not as complete listings. Please see resources below for more information.
- Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States: Summary for Patients, Families, and Caregivers
- Part 1:Pertinent Food Allergy Education in a Pediatric Ambulatory Care Setting for the Newly Diagnosed Patient
- Part 2: Pertinent Food Allergy Education in a Pediatric Ambulatory Care Setting with a Focus on Anaphylaxis