When the average person thinks about living with a food allergy, things like a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneeze-inducing pollen come to mind. But beyond what can be fixed with Claritin or other antihistamines lies a more complicated set of vulnerabilities – food allergies.
Food allergies affect roughly 4% of US residents. Some people experience mild food allergies when they’re younger, growing out of them as they age. But those that aren’t blessed with this merciful disappearing act are given a diagnosis that includes life-altering challenges. This can require individuals to take drastic measures with each snack or meal, and even precautions around other people’s food.
All types of food allergies will change a person’s life, and many people are faced with emotional and stress repercussions that come along with a diagnosis. In order to understand and empathize with the difficulties endured by those with a food allergy, we must take a closer look at specific challenges they face in their daily lives.
Challenge #1 – Gatherings While Living With a Food Allergy: A Burden or a Social Celebration?
With the holidays upon us, I felt that family gatherings would be a fitting place to start. Much of the world engages with friends and family through food – it’s the literal bread and butter of socialization. But for those living with a food allergy, trips to a restaurant or other family get-togethers can be quite unnerving.
Depending on the severity and type of food allergy, one cannot simply waltz into any old buffet or restaurant. They have to do their due diligence in researching food, sometimes calling and speaking to managers first to evaluate the risks of cross-contamination. Furthermore, when the food is finally put on the table – especially if one has been through a traumatic food allergy incident – the first few bites can feel like dining roulette.
Challenge #2 – Lack of Understanding of Living With a Food Allergy
The average human being spends multiple hours a day preparing food and eating. Living with a food allergy makes nearly every moment you’re around food stressful. Worse still, about 96 percent of the population (i.e. those who don’t have a food allergy) likely do not know much less appreciate what you’re going through.
The measures you must take to diligently read each ingredient or the act of being picky about what you eat in general can be an annoyance to people who don’t understand what is truly at stake for you. This can make social situations particularly anxiety-provoking – especially for young people.
Challenge #3 – Living With a Food Allergy is a Life Without Certain Foods
If you are living with a food allergy, sometimes you’ll never get to experience entire food groups – dairy, nuts, fish, shellfish, and more are common food allergens. If severe enough, these food allergies can prevent someone from ever touching a glass of milk or dipping their spoons into a simmering seafood stew. Watching friends and family have the freedom to pick and choose when and what they eat can often be frustrating.
As mentioned before, cross-contamination is a huge concern. Many people even have to stay away from similar food groups to eliminate risks. For instance, as we mentioned in Common Food Allergies—Part One, being allergic to peanuts makes you 25-40% more likely to be allergic to tree nuts than the average person. So, knowing you’re already allergic to peanuts, do you try your luck with, say, walnuts or almonds? Or do you play it safe and just avoid nuts altogether?
Challenge #4 – Strenuous Family Relations
No one born with a food allergy is happy about their predicament or the stress it can cause their loved ones. Close family members have to adapt to the struggles of food allergies, sometimes straining family relations.
For those that have kids living with a food allergy, it’s often incredibly stressful for a family when their child, brother, or sister goes to school or is out with friends. The fear of unknowns and the possibilities of a severe allergic reaction without a familial caretaker being present make each day a burdensome one filled with worries.
Admittedly, the tone of this installment is a little depressing. But one of the main goals of this Blog is to raise food allergy awareness. Since the vast majority of the population is not living with a food allergy, there is a lot they don’t know about managing food allergies, and about food allergies in general. This particular article is simply “food for thought” (pun intended). A little empathy goes a long way, and by learning a few things about what it’s like living with a food allergy, you are considerably more likely to be sensitive (or even accommodating) to another’s struggle. And if that positive change happens for even one person who reads this article, we will consider it an unequivocal success.
About the Author
Safe Sweets is a US based company that offers allergy free and allergen friendly chocolates. Many of the products offered by Safe Sweets have zero allergic ingredients, which means that customers with a history of food allergy can buy its products without hesitation. And because their facility is 100% nut free and dairy free, there is no chance of cross-contamination from shared equipment, utensils, or the like. If you are looking for an allergy free or allergen friendly chocolate option for you or your children, visit www.safesweets.com today for an amazing line of delicious, allergy safe products.