Explaining Allergies to your Friends

Friends diningMy name is Caitlyn and I’m allergic to wheat, eggs and peanuts.  Like so many others, I have gotten pretty used to informing people about my allergies. However, doing so can vary a great deal in terms of who I am actually talking to.  When it comes to explaining food allergies to my friends, it’s a lot different than explaining food allergies to a chef at a restaurant. Talking to my friends about allergies is at a much more personal level. It often involves more questioning and explanations which helps friends gain a greater understanding of what your going through living with allergies.  Situations however, can vary depending on how well you know the person (e.g. A best friend since forever or newly met acquaintance), as well if you’re having a one-on-one conversation or are in a large group setting.  Either way it’s always important to stay open about your allergies!

        Personally, I find whenever I begin to become friends with someone and inform them about my allergies, there are some pretty typical responses. One being: “WHAT DO YOU EAT!?” or another common one being: “So what happens if I eat ______ in front of you?”  No matter what their questions are, I always answer them since I see it as something positive in that they are showing an interest in trying to  understand my allergies.  I also take that time to inform them of simple precautions that they can take such as avoiding eating nuts around me.  Being in a larger group of friends and explaining allergies can be more intimidating, especially if the attention shifts all of a sudden on you.  If you have informed people about your allergies, don’t feel pressured to keep talking about your allergies after you have explained all that you can. Simply change the topic.  Personally, I never try to dwell on my allergies more than is necessary. After all, there are many other things I like to talk about! I still find it important to make sure my friends are informed about my allergies. If they are true friends they will be interested in knowing about them too and how to be safe around me.

        Even when your friends know about your allergies, they still may struggle fully understanding what you can and can’t eat.  For things such as social events where people want to bring food, they may become concerned about bringing food that’s allergy friendly.  In his situation, I don’t just inform people of the foods I can’t eat and what they should avoid bringing, but I also inform them of everything I CAN eat and give them as many ideas and options as possible.  I also bring my own allergy-free alternatives such as a gluten-free bun to a barbeque or my own cupcake to a birthday.  By doing this, not only do you feel more included by eating what everyone else gets to eat (I mean who doesn’t want cake at a birthday right!?), but others will also feel better knowing you can eat something too.   When it comes to eating out somewhere, be open with your friends about where you can’t eat so you don’t end up at a restaurant that can’t accommodate your allergies. Again, give them options about other places that work for you so that everyone can still make a decision together.

        It can be a challenge explaining allergies to friends, especially in a group situation.  Just keep in mind that it’s important for your friends to know about your allergies and how to help keep you safe. Plus if they’re good friends then they’ll be just as interested in your allergies and want to learn everything they can!

How do you explain your allergies to your friends?


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