A couple weeks ago, Andrea Tufo walked into a local cafe, sat down and immediately began to start swelling.

“There must have been something on the table or chair (related to her food allergies to nuts, fish and iodine),” she said. “I needed my Epi-Pen and still wound up in the hospital emergency room for a few hours and the hospital itself for a few days.”

Tufo, the executive director of the Donald Heiter Community Center in Lewisburg, was diagnosed at age 21 with an allergy to iodine.

“It is in a lot of things, such as dairy, salt, fish, shellfish, nuts and more,” she said. “With nuts and fish, especially, my throat, lips and eyes swell. I get hives.”

Tufo met with an allergist that helped her better understand her allergies and provided her with lots of important advice.

“I was told not to experiment like you can with some allergies,” she said. “I learned to have conversations with restaurants and to make baked goods from scratch. I carry my Epi-Pen, always. It was also important to educate my friends, family and co-workers.”

She added that it has been interesting to work with kids all the time while being allergic to nuts, especially.

“They’ve learned to be more aware, conscious and alert — but not afraid,” Tufo said.

Tufo finds herself asking lots of questions about the food she is about to eat — whether it is at a restaurant or a friend’s place. She reads the food labels regularly, and is more aware of people coughing in restaurants.

“I find myself eating out less — and when I do find a restaurant I feel I can trust, I tend to become a regular customer,” she said, adding that having severe food allergies doesn’t always mean a better proficiency in the kitchen.

“I wish I could say it’s made me a better cook, but not so much.”

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