There are parts of my life with food allergies that are non-negotiable. They stemmed from childhood and have continued into adulthood. I realize that not everyone has been walking this journey their entire lives, so I want to share with you the situations and behaviors that to me are too risky to negotiate with food allergies.
It’s funny, because I pretty much forget that most people would consider eating dessert after dinner, especially when they go out. Over my three decades, I can only think of maybe a handful of times where I could safely eat dessert (and this was after speaking to the chef and manager and asking a million questions). This is typically something with fruit, nothing baked or chocolatey. It can be challenging enough to find a safe meal, so dessert is just never worth the risk. The same goes with trusting a bakery. It’s only in the last ten years where allergen-friendly bakeries have popped up. If you’re someone like me who has allergies outside of the top eight, this still means you have questions to ask, however hopefully you can still eat something sweet!
“May Contain” and Other Warnings
Companies do NOT have to disclose these warnings on their packaging in the U.S. None of the warnings are better than the others either because none of them really explain what kind of risk there is by eating that food. Therefore, until there’s better labeling on packaged items, any packaged warning is a NO in my mind (check with your allergist to decide what is the right choice for you).
Wearing a Medic Alert Bracelet
When I was a child, I never had the option of taking it off or any reason to remove it (some kids can’t wear it during certain sports). There were only two special times growing up where I was allowed to take it off for the night. Besides that, it was always on. Those bracelet clasps are basically indestructible anyway, and even if I wanted to get it off, it wasn’t going to happen when I was a child. Now as an adult I continue to wear one. Honestly, I don’t even think about it. It’s easy enough to wear and it seems silly not to have one. Especially as an adult, I don’t always have people with me and the purpose of a Medic Alert bracelet is so that people know about your allergies (or other medical condition) in case of an emergency.
Note: This is not an ad in any way, however I would not consider any other brands. Medic Alert is the most well recognized and the best as far as I’m concerned.
I never assume a food is safe. It doesn’t matter to me if the ingredients are listed on the menu. Those are not ALL of the ingredients. I still need to ask questions. I need to make sure they understand cross contact. I only eat something when I feel that there is not a reasonable risk. Absolutely, mistakes can happen and there is always some level of risk. However, the best-case scenario for dining out is asking all of the questions and receiving answers that relieve concerns. I ask questions until I feel comfortable. Always ask! Also, read here about my red flags for dining out.
Allowing Emotions to Take Over
Those of us with food allergies are still a small part of the population. Even though we are a growing population, not everyone has food allergy experience (like many people assume they do). I know this is hard for people who are new to the food allergy world to understand, but the education and understanding of food allergies that people now have is significantly better than ever before. You may feel like no one “gets it” sometimes, however it is a night and day difference from what I grew up with. Therefore, I want to stress that there’s no reason to yell or speak in a condescending tone to anyone that doesn’t get it. If we don’t have first hand experience with something, no matter how empathetic we are, we still won’t fully “get it” without that experience. Kindness is important in representing yourself and makes people want to engage and listen to understand. We want to educate people, not discourage them from engaging with us.
To read more about food allergy risks that aren’t worth taking, visit here.