Educating family and friends about food allergies
Originally Published in "Allergy & Asthma News, Volume 2, 2016
Once you have received the diagnosis of food allergies, you then have to start
trying to educate those around you about the challenges you are going to be
facing. The word “try” is the best word because you are going to find that some
people will get it very easily and then there are others, that no matter what
you say, don't want to understand the issues you are going to be dealing with.
Some of the people around you will accept that there are going to be changes
that need to be made and be extremely thankful for those people. You are also
going to have to deal with the people that tell you that you will have to deal with
it and you need to do it yourself. Dealing with food allergies isn't something
that you can deal with yourself because no matter where you go, you are going
to be faced with a possible issue of cross-contamination depending on your allergies.
Having food allergies can mean that a missed step could result in an
Some of the challenges or hurtful comments you may face from friends and/or
- Your allergies are all in your head.
- You don't have food allergies, you just claim to have them.
- Other people have health issues as well, so you need to just deal with it yourself and don't talk about it.
- You ate it before so why can't you eat it now. This comment is really true for someone that has adult on-set anaphylaxis. Yes, they have been able to eat the food before but have developed anaphylaxis to it later in life.
- Don't talk about your allergies in public because it just shows there is something wrong with you.
- You may find that someone will even try and feed you something you are allergic to so that they can prove to you that you aren't allergic to it.
- Someone may say, "No one really knows how you are going to react to that food."
All of these comments just show that the person doesn't understand what you are
dealing with. Being able to educate people on the issues of food allergies is
very important as your life does depend on it. If you can't educate the people around
you, it may be difficult, but you may have to avoid being around them where
food is involved. Not everyone is going to totally understand the issues and
challenges that someone with food allergies deals with daily.
Possible responses to hurtful comments:
- I'm sorry that you don't understand my allergies,
but I would be more than willing to explain them to you so that you can have a better understanding of what it's like to have food allergies.
- I didn't ask to have food allergies.
- I would like to show you how to use my auto-injector so that if I do have a reaction when you are around you will understand how to administer it.
- It is true that I didn't have food allergies before and they have just appeared. Anyone can get them at any age.
- I understand other people have health issues and I still do need to talk about my food allergies so that my life isn't at risk with
a simple mistake.
- If you have health issues that you would like to talk about, I am more than willing to listen to you in return for you listening
Points to remember:
- Always have your un-expired auto-injector with you. (If you don't have it, you don't eat!)
- When you are out, remember to let servers know what you are allergic to even if you have told the server on a previous visit.
- If you are going to visit friends, make sure that they are aware of your allergies and don't be afraid of reminding them beforehand what your specific allergies are.
- Ensure that your family and friends understand what you are allergic to and that they know how to use your auto-injector.
Having food allergies can be a challenge at the best of times, but when people
around you don't understand them or don't want to deal with them; it can make it
even harder. Know who understands your allergies and value them, because they
are the ones you need to spend your time with.
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