There are a number of things that people with food allergies are forced to deal with throughout their lives: doctor’s appointments, food anxiety’s and at times, even social isolation. But perhaps the most tedious thing people with food allergies deal with, is the constant stream of comments from people who just don’t get it. It is fine to ask questions – for many, it is even encouraged – all we ask is that before you share your opinion, you take the time to brush up on your facts. People in the food allergy community love to spread awareness and would be more than willing to educate you on their lives, but here a few things that you just shouldn’t say.
“Just Try It”
This one is not only annoying, but completely insensitive. For many people with food allergies, being exposed to their allergen could be a matter of life and death. We are sure that your peanut butter cookies are great, but there is no chance that we try them. Try and remember that this isn’t about you. When hosting someone with food allergies, you have a responsibility – especially when that someone is a child. Please never ask a child to try a food that contains their allergen, even if it is only a trace amount.
“But You Won’t Really Die”
While not all allergies trigger an anaphylactic reaction, many do, and those people can die. People with food allergies deal with enough anxiety without having to worry about their friends not taking their allergen seriously. It is important that we feel we can trust anyone who we may share a meal with and by insinuating that we are being dramatic when dealing with our allergies, you are losing our trust. It is important that you recognize the severity of the situation, making you more likely to be careful too.
“Stop Being So Dramatic”
This one is especially hurtful. I’m sure we’ve all been in a scenario where we exclude ourselves from a situation for the sake of others. For people with food allergies, this means bowing out of the barbecue so that no one has to give up on their favorite sesame filled buns. Or choosing not to come to dinner so that not everyone has to go to the allergy free restaurant. When we make the decision to remove ourselves from a situation for the sake of others, the last thing we want to hear is that we’re being dramatic. While sometimes we push to be included, other times it’s easier just to sit one out. Try showing us were not a burden instead of accusing us of being crazy.
“Have You Taken Them to A Doctor?”
This question is particularly perplexing. Are you assuming that we diagnosed the food allergy ourselves? Or that we chose not to consult a doctor on the best way to deal with it? Either way, it leaves us more than a little confused. Our children are the most important things in the world to us, and you better know that we have done (and continue to do) everything in our power to keep them safe, healthy and happy. Try instead; what advice did the doctor have? Or, I’d love to learn about how you deal with their allergies!
“So, What Do They Eat?”
Our children do not go hungry. We appreciate your worry, but sometimes this question makes us feel like you’re assuming our kids aren’t well cared for. Sometimes we do have to get a little creative with meal time – something we would love to share with you – but that doesn’t mean our children don’t get to enjoy food or are in any way lacking.
“Maybe You’re Not Allergic Anymore”
It is definitely true that people outgrow food allergies, but I am not about to test that theory at a family barbecue. Should I choose to retest myself I will speak to my doctor and do so in a controlled setting. This comment relates back to those that assume we’re not on top of our food allergies and are just being dramatic. Living with food allergies is hard enough without having people constantly assume that we don’t actually have food allergies. We appreciate that more often than not, you are trying to help and learn, but sometimes it is best to approach these issues in a more sensitive way that doesn’t make us feel like our hardships are illegitimate.
We would never want to discourage anyone looking to learn about food allergies, but just like everything else in life, it is important to be approach things in a sensitive way. We recognize that most of these comments and questions come from a place of wanting to learn and understand, and we are more than happy to educate anyone willing to listen. But still we ask that you try your best to be sensitive to the issues at hand and understand that sometimes your questions can be hurtful.