Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Let’s talk allergies! Allergies are so often misunderstood but luckily in my 15 years of having them a LOT has changed. However, I thought it might be worth putting together a resource post with ‘key things to know’ from the perspective of someone with anaphylaxis. Here goes-
General things to be aware of-
- Intolerances, allergies and anaphylaxis are different. Intolerances are detrimental reactions to certain foods such as a sore tummy or sickness. Allergies are specific reactions to stimulus that usually wouldn’t provoke reactions i.e.- difficulty breathing and rashes. Anaphylaxis is a serious reaction to allergens; this can result in death.
- You can be just as severely allergic to things that aren’t food. - I for example am allergic to dogs, cats, horses and dust mites. Other than when I was diagnosed the only thing, I have been to hospital for in terms of allergies were dogs.
- May contain…. Labelling is JUST as dangerous for someone with allergies to eat as a declared allergen.
- In the UK, eateries and food stores must legally be able to declare all allergens present in their products. This usually takes the form of a special ‘allergy menu’ which states what you can and can’t have. If a store misleads or doesn’t have this information available, they are breaking the law.
- There are 14 major allergens that MUST be declared- Cereals (containing gluten), Crustaceans, Eggs, Fish, Peanuts, Soya, Milk, Tree Nuts, Celery, Mustard, sesame, Sulphur dioxide, lupin and molluscs.
Things people with allergies have to think about that you might not be aware of-
- We can’t go to every restaurant- some simply aren’t safe or are not trusted. We know it isn’t intentional but if our friends want to meet up at somewhere that isn’t safe to eat, we will probably say no just for ease.
- Drinking and nights out can be a lowkey nightmare- so many alcoholic drinks have allergens in that aren’t as clearly labelled. Also, sharing drinks- absolutely not.
- Meal planning and prepping is key- We can’t just grab a sandwich- there simply isn’t the choice to hope that there is allergy friendly food available.
- Checking everything and again and again- We need to check things every time we buy them or eat them. Places are sneaky they change recipes and ingredients at a FAST pace. It isn’t worth risking it.
- We might need to politely tell you to stop eating something in front of us if it contains an allergen- We can have reactions from airborne particles or dust on tables.
- We might have to question people we want to kiss- A particularly awkward but important one. We can have allergic reactions from kissing someone, so if someone leant in, we *might* need to know what your work break snack was.
Things not to say/or do in front of your allergic friends, colleagues etc... -
- ‘But X doesn’t have X in it’- I need to check EVERYTHING. Yes, bread might not traditionally have nuts in but am I willing to take that risk? Absolutely not. Checking a product is a small price to pay.
- ‘I am sure it’ll be fine…’ – AGAIN, please just let me check. In particular if you are talking about a may contain warning- no it might not be fine, I will not take the risk.
- ‘Do you want the vegan menu?’ – As much love and respect, I have for my vegan buddies- my allergy is not a choice. If I ask for an allergy menu I am doing so because without being blunt- I could die from eating the wrong thing. Being asked if I want to look at the vegan menu quite honestly terrifies me into thinking I have been misunderstood.
- Be offended if we ask to bring our own food- Sometimes it’s just easier, sometimes we are scared. I love people who I trust to cook for me but I’m also putting a lot into your hands. Please, please don’t take it as a personal attack.
- Be offended if we need you to put something away- Yes, I can have an allergic reaction from you eating nuts in front of me, please don’t make a fuss if I need these away from me. You CAN make the choice to eat something else and return to the snickers bar later, I can’t magic away an allergy.
- Try and force us to eat something- just NO.
- Make a fuss at a restaurant- This might seem a tad ridiculous but unless you also have a dietary requirement or there is something seriously wrong, I am begging you to please stop. It’s difficult enough to convey my allergy to a waiter but when I have someone making a fuss about menial things, it can get dangerously lost in the business.
- How to spot an allergic reaction- https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/what-is-anaphylaxis/patient-signs-and-symptoms/
- How to deal with an allergic reaction- https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/what-to-do-in-an-emergency/ (going to add my own key thing here- if someone has been issued with an auto adrenaline injection they MUST go to hospital, even if it turns out to be a false alarm.)
- How to prepare food for someone with allergies- https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/living-with-anaphylaxis/shopping-and-preparing-food/
Please make sure to share this and get the word out!