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.

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Blog perspective from a Yapper’s PARENT about fears of having children taking control over allergies 

Letting go of the “parental reigns” is hard enough at the best of times. But when you have a child with allergies, the task is monumental. That’s because the stakes are so much higher if you misjudge your child’s ability to take responsibility for their well-being.

As the parent of a now 23-year-old allergic child, I freely and unabashedly admit that I hung onto those proverbial reigns as long as I could. Was it longer than needed? I don’t think so. When you have a “healthy” child, you can encourage independence by letting them suffer the consequences of their mistakes, since as we all know, life’s lessons are best learned through personal experience. But that approach certainly doesn’t work here, because the potential consequences of not being prepared in the event of an emergency are dire. So how do we reconcile letting our children take control of their allergies and keeping them safe at the same time?parent

The first step is to know your child. Because of their condition, you cannot “push” them to be responsible. Your child needs to understand the implications of their allergies, but remember that it is typically not before age 7 (and as late as 10) that they can fully grasp the concept of death. This knowledge is a game-changer for an al
lergic child, and how they respond is anyone’s guess. Some may mature overnight. Others may be unable to deal with this overwhelming new realization and pretend it’s not real. Let their response be your guide and respond accordingly.

As they get older, they will notice what steps you take to keep them safe, for example, calling ahead before an outing to see what food will be served. If your child is an extrovert, you can ask them if they would like to make the call. But bear in mind that these calls mean talking to adults, and most children are not comfortable doing that until well into their teens.

Never lose sight of the fact that you are a parent and that this is not a popularity contest. They may roll their eyes on the way out when you ask (again!) if they have their auto-injector and asthma medication with them.
As teens, they may not want to divulge where they’re going, and although they won’t make the necessary calls, they won’t want you to either. Stand firm.

When you have an allergic child, it’s hard not to be a helicopter parent. Using that metaphor, then I was a 737 jet. I make no excuses, and I have no regrets. Until this day I am making sure my daughter follows up with her pulmonary specialist and allergist. There is nothing I would like better than to shed this responsibility, but until I am 100% sure that she can fully assume the load, I will be there, because it’s my job and because I love her.

Drinking with Allergies

*This article is meant for those who are legally allowed to drink alcohol, and as a “heads up” for teens of things to consider when they are of legal drinking age.

 

When I was 18, I took a bartending course and learned all about the different types of alcohols and cocktails. I was surprised to see how many drinks contained common allergens. According to Health Canada, any alcohol (except beer) that contains a priority allergen, gluten, or added sulfites, has to state that somewhere on the bottle. In my experience, companies are still catching up to that regulation, so you might have to do a little searching on the label or on the Internet to really find out what’s in a drink. Here is a short list of some cocktails and drinks that include common allergens:

Nuts

  • Certain
  • Certain liquors
  • Certain gins
  • Cocktails: Godfather, Alabama Slammer, Amaretto Sour, Blueberry Tea

Fish

  • Pretty much any cocktail that contains the words Bloody, Red, Mary or Caesar: Bloody Mary, Bloody Caesar, Red Zombie (contain Worcestershire sauce)

Egg

  • Eggnog, Tom and Jerry, Golden Fizz

Milk

  • Brown Cow, Blind Russian, White Russian, Brandy Alexander, Coco Cognac, Sombrero, Grasshopper, Pina Colada

I’ve worked at clubs, hotels, and restaurants, and these are a few things I think every person with allergies should know about most bartenders:

  • From my experience, when we don’t know how to make a specific cocktail and are too busy to look it up, we tend to wing it. Or, if we’re feeling creative, we might modify the recipe. This means that even if you know a certain cocktail is usually safe for you, there’s always a chance it’s not.
  • If it’s a really busy night and we’re making a lot of drinks using a cocktail shaker, the shaker is usually only rinsed under water for a few seconds before being used for the next drink. This means that residue from the last drink might still be present on the shaker or on the cap. If you’re at a bar and can see that the bartender is super busy, I recommend sticking with drinks that don’t require a shaker, like a simple vodka soda.
  • If you’re allergic to any kind of fruit, never drink anything that includes “punch”. Most of the time, punch is just a mixture of a bunch of different fruit juices, like apple, pineapple, orange, strawberry-kiwi, grapefruit, etc.
  • Tip well! If a bartender remembers you as a good tipper, they’re more likely to be amenable to your requests. For example, if you know you can’t have Beefeater and request Tanqueray instead, a bartender that likes you will be more likely to help you out. It is still important however to ensure bartenders are aware of your allergies when ordering!

To sum it all up, be vigilant and be safe! Communicating with a bartender in a loud and busy setting can be tricky, so when in doubt, stick with simple drinks. Don’t let yourself get peer-pressured into trying your friend’s drink, or taking shots of an unknown drink because the whole group is doing it. You can still drink and have a great time while keeping yourself safe. Be sure that the friends you go out with know about your allergies and where you keep your epinephrine. Most importantly, have fun!