Speak Up About Your Allergies

Speak Up About Your Allergies

When it comes to our personal health, we don’t usually walk into a public setting and announce what we’re dealing with. Living with food allergies, however, requires a willingness to speak up often. It’s not a chronic health challenge we keep to ourselves. In fact, we need to be prepared to ask questions and share information about our allergies in all sorts of settings. Some of them may seem like a given to you – a restaurant? Sure. Others may not have crossed your mind.

Eating Out and Taking Out

Whenever you’re buying prepared food, whether you’re eating there, taking out, or having it delivered, be prepared to speak up. Talk to the person seating you at your table. Talk to your waiter or the person taking your to-go order. Talk to the manager if you can. 

Start by informing them first that you or someone else in your group has food allergies. Be clear about what those allergies are. Ask if they will be able to accommodate your group and provide a meal that’s safe for the allergic person. Don’t stop there. Keep asking questions until you’re comfortable. 

If you’re not comfortable with the answers, it’s okay to hand back the menus and move on to a place where you feel like you can safely find an allergy-friendly meal. 

Back to School

From the first year or preschool to the final year of higher ed, you and your child should be prepared to speak with the powers that be at their school about their food allergies. When your child is younger, it’s on you to steer the conversation. As they get older, they should participate in the conversation so by the time they reach 18, they’re comfortable taking over and self-advocating with dining services and the office of disability management at their college or university. 

The conversation isn’t just about meals at school. Cover topics like class parties for the elementary set and access to facilities to cook for oneself for the college set. Work with your allergist to understand what accommodations are needed and then work with the appropriate team at school to make it happen.

Hair Salons & Spas

Sweet almond oil, macadamia nut oil, soy, wheat, and on and on and on. The things you’re allergic to may be an ingredient in lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and other self-care products. For some allergic individuals, using these products can trigger contact reactions like rashes, hives, and itching. If the product comes into contact with your eyes, nose, or mouth, potential ingestion-based reactions may be triggered. 

In other words, ask questions before your next haircut, manicure, or other self-care appointment. Ask to check the labels on the products that will be used before they are applied to your skin or scalp. Remember, read the listed ingredients thoroughly, as these products do not fall under the same clear labeling labels your packaged food does.

Playdates, Camps, and More

Allergy parents, any time you’re leaving your allergic child with another adult, you need to make them aware of your child’s food allergies and allergy action plan. Got an older child? You and your child should still convey the information to their coaches, instructors, and parents of friends. 

In fact, allergic adults, make sure your friends and family are aware of what you’re looking out for and how to help you respond if you were to have a reaction. Managing food allergies, and responding to reactions is a team sport.

On the Job

Whether you’re a teen working in retail or fast-food to a career professional, make sure someone in your workplace is aware of your food allergies and your allergy action plan. Yes, you can request reasonable accommodations where needed, but that’s not the only reason to speak up. You also want to have others around you aware of how to respond if you were to have a severe reaction. 

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