Having food allergies can be bummer for one’s social life. This is according to a report in USA Today.
Below, some situations are discussed, plus some tips on coping strategies
Dining out. The USA Today report cited a couple who typically has to grill their food server every time they go to a restaurant. It’s not only the ingredients that they have to check out; the preparation process also has to be scrutinized. It’s not that they are being complicated or picky. It’s simply a question of watching out for their health. For waiters, chefs, and restaurant owners, these are probably their nightmare customers. It’s not that they are inconsiderate. It’s simply making their jobs difficult, plus the threat of an injury in their premises, maybe eventually a lawsuit. I can imagine that for people with food allergies, the act of going out can become tedious, even embarrassing that dining at home may actually be the best option.
Invitations. I remember a boy in my son’s kindergarten class who was allergic to nuts and chocolate. The poor tot was not allowed to attend birthday parties. And the other kids resented them because the teachers wouldn’t allow any chocolate goodies within the four walls of the classroom for his safety. Talk about a considered a spoil sports at an early age. And it doesn’t get any better as the child grows. In fact, even adults run into social problems due to food allergy. Hostesses get offended or hurt feelings when guests refuse invitations. Or if the guests actually accept, they start questioning the menu.
Traveling. Traveling is especially a hustle since you would be away from your kitchen for a long period and be exposed to food allergens, whether through the plane food or the fast food stop on the freeway.
No wonder that food allergies may also cause psychological problems in some people, e.g. eating disorders, and poor self-worth. According to one doctor:
“I’ve had patients who’ve literally said they’d rather die than use an EpiPen (an injectible emergency treatment that counteracts life-threatening allergic reactions) because it’s so embarrassing… And I wonder: Where did they get that message?”
Some statistics on food allergies from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:
- Food allergies are on the rise.
- 30,000 cases of anaphylaxis due to food allergies occurs every year
- 2,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths each year occur due to food allergies.
Some statistics from the CDC
- As many 9,500 children were hospitalized in 2009 due to food allergies.
- Eight types of food account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions in the USA: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans), wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.
Here are some tips on how to deal with food allergies without ruining your social life.
- For dining out, keep a list of allergy-aware restaurants. Talk to the manager and explain your needs and concerns.
- Accept invitations only from close family members and friends who are aware of your allergies. This is to avoid embarrassing situations.
- When flying, inform the airline way ahead and make your meal request as clear as possible. Always carry a pack of your allergen-free snack.
- When travelling, find accommodations with a kitchen so you can independently prepare your food.
- Mail or order your food ahead, e.g. gluten-free food to your hotel or other accommodations.
- Wherever your destination is, are sure you have access to retailers who carry a wide range of allergen-free foods.
- Always carry an EpiPen (injectable epinephrine) and other necessary medications especially if you’re anaphylactic. If you are travelling with somebody, inform him or her about your allergy and make sure he or she knows where your medications are.
- Get a certification from your doctor about your EpiPen in case you ran into security problems at the airport.
- Finally, go out and meet others with similar food allergies and share your resources and experiences.