Taking Control of Your Own Allergies

As a teenager or a young adult, taking control of your allergies can be tough. You have to do all the things your parents did for you when you were younger. This ranges from calling a restaurant in advance to booking your own doctor appointments. Inevitably, this involves a lot of talking to people, sometimes arguing with them, inconveniencing them, and standing up for yourself.

One of the hardest parts of taking control is communicating with other people. These people can be your friends, a restaurant waiter, or a flight stewardess, and they all need to be informed of your allergies. If you’re shy or introverted, this can be especially difficult. It’s scary to wonder if that person will judge you, roll their eyes, laugh at you, etc. It’s really best to get used to this anxiety while you’re young, because you’ll have to deal with people’s reactions for the rest of your life. I tried a bunch of different communication strategies before finding one that worked for me. Scaring people by telling them they could kill you tends to freak them out, but down-playing the severity of your allergies can lead to situations which put you in danger.

Asking for accommodations can be scary as well. It sucks to have to ask a group of people to rearrange their plans so you can go to a restaurant with them, but if they’re really your friends they probably want you to join them and be safe. Personally, I find talking to waiters to be the hardest. Most waiters are accommodating, but sometimes if they’re really busy they might brush you off or dismiss you. If you don’t feel like they’re taking you seriously, ask for another waiter. There’s nothing more important than your safety. You’re the only one who is responsible for your health, so if you feel like the waiters are wishy-washy, ask to speak to a manager or the chef.

One of the more uncomfortable conversations you’ll have to have will be with your girlfriend/boyfriend. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time with this person and probably kissing them, it’s important that they know all about your allergies and how to handle them. They might have to watch what they eat if they’ll be seeing you that day, or brush their teeth and waiting an extended period of time before coming over. The unfortunate truth is that some people are not willing to do this. These are not the people you want to date, no matter how cute they are. Stand up for yourself, and if they don’t care about your health, move on.

Finally, be okay with messing up sometimes. You might forget your auto-injector at home one day and have to run back and get it, or forget to renew a prescription and have to run to the pharmacy at midnight. These things happen, and they’re part of the process of growing up and taking control. The important thing is to learn from these mistakes so you don’t make them again.

Growing into my Allergy

When I was nine, I had my first skin test. My brother was allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and I was not. I never thought I would grow into an allergy. I never knew you could grow into an allergy. The skin test was inconclusive.

“What does inconclusive even mean?”
“It means we are taking you to the hospital to get an oral challenge. It involves a doctor giving you small amounts of peanut butter to see if you react.”
“…I don’t like where this is going, Doc…”

Obviously, I didn’t speak like that when I was nine, but it’s definitely along the lines of how I felt. Long story short, after a few small doses, I had a reaction once I got to a full teaspoon of peanut butter, thus labelling me as “ALLERGIC!”

At the very beginning I did not like having a peanut/tree nut allergy. At the time, an allergy seemed very negative to me after seeing my brother endure years of avoiding the things I loved. All the good foods had nuts. All the restaurants had nuts. No one could guarantee anything and my life was confined to homemade meals. However It wasn’t long until I slowly found out that allergies aren’t so bad. Safe homemade goodies were amazing and at every birthday party I went to, my mom secretly sent along a special safe piece of cake for me! My cake was always better than the birthday boy/girl’s cake. Always!

My mom's special & safe birthday cakes were the best!

My mom’s special & safe birthday cakes were the best!

Looking at my allergy now, I’m actually pretty thankful. I learned how to become more independent, I learned how to cook food, and I eat way healthier by avoiding most desserts, pastries, chocolates etc. that contain or may contain nuts! My advice to people newly diagnosed with allergies:

An allergy is a blessing in disguise. It keeps you on your toes, it teaches you a lot of life skills and there is always a delicious allergen-free food waiting around the corner. Just be patient, cautious, and spread awareness to those around you!