I was just thinking this morning about how difficult it is to have allergies. You have to be constantly vigilant about what goes into your body and spend time researching food ingredients before you can actually eat the food. You have to worry about making up the vitamins and nutrients that you aren’t naturally getting from the food you’re allergic to. You have to bring alternatives (and/or deny food) if you’re going anywhere away from home, or you go hungry. AND, you have to worry about others. Others who think that it’s all in your head, that you’re making it up, or that you’re just being overdramatic. Others who say, “You’re allergic to ____??? I’ve never heard of an allergy to that before. It must not be real. I bet you’re just a picky eater.” Or my favorite, “Well are you sure it’s an allergy? What happens to you when you eat it?” (As if my statement of allergy is only validated if my allergic reaction is super dramatic.)
To those with the luxury of having few or no allergies: you are so very blessed! Be thankful for that. But please, never downgrade someone’s health concerns because you do not have experience with them. It is hard enough for that person feeling like they’re unusual and “the difficult one” who has to ask for special care. Trust that he or she is not just doing it for fun!
When encountered with a friend or acquaintance with allergies, try some of the following (some suggestions are adapted from TheOddSpot’s guest post on Modern Alternative Mama. Check it out!):
- Unless you are medically trained or have done significant research, please do not tell someone how they should live with allergies. “This one time won’t hurt,” or “A peanut isn’t the same as a tree nut, so you should be fine,” are not valid statements unless you are a professional with knowledge of that person’s medical history.
- Remember that no one lives in a bubble. Leaving peanut butter smears on the counter, or using the knife you used to cut fish to cut someone else’s food could seriously hurt them. Please be aware!
- Learn the symptoms of an allergic reaction and what to do if someone around you is having one. Learning how to use an Epi-Pen could save someone’s life!
- If you know a child who is struggling and feeling like the odd one out because of their allergies, try to reverse this. When I was young, I always got to serve my food first at dinner. This, of course, was to avoid cross contamination, but it made me feel special that I got to load up my plate even before my parents! It helps to turn precautions into special things.
- If someone close to you has allergies, be their second checker when they eat food made by someone else. Believe it or not, sometimes I forget to check for certain ingredients, or I accept something on my plate forgetting what it might contain. Having my sister, friend, or boyfriend say, “Does that have ___,” or, “Aren’t you allergic to ____?” is SUCH a life-saving help for me. Even if I’ve already checked, it doesn’t hurt to have them check again. You can never be too safe!
When dealing with difficult health concerns, it’s always easier to have someone supporting you and looking out for you . A little thoughtfulness truly does go a long way!