When it comes to people handling their food allergies by themselves I find that age holds a powerful verdict in how self dependent one is. As a child, it is assumed that a parent or guardian will be the decision maker in making sure that a child is safe and cautious throughout daily life when handling food allergens. I know that when I was growing up my parents were always the ones carrying my epinephrine injector, setting out what I could eat for myself, and making sure I always washed my hands. The shift from that point in time to middle school allowed me to take more independent actions with maintenance of my food allergies.
In my middle school food was only allowed strictly in the cafeteria. Food could not be eaten in the classroom or in the hallway. This made handling food allergies in Middle School easier than it is for me now in High School. In Middle School I always had my epinephrine injector on me and the nurses at my school each had one as well. During lunch I sat at the Allergy Table and I didn’t have to worry about there being an allergen present when I was eating. The ‘Allergy Free Table’ was always cleaned before I sat down and in class the strict food rules prevented me from being worried about coming into contact with my allergies during class. However, when I came to High School the change in environment forced me to change how I handled my food allergies.
My High School has an open food policy. This means that food can be eaten anywhere in the building. Most teachers are fine with students eating during class. During lunch, food is everywhere and students are able to eat wherever they please ranging from the courtyard, to the halls, to the gymnasium. The Nurse at my school who holds my epinephrine follows a policy that if she has to leave for an emergency her office would be locked. These were all things that initially raised red flags for me when I first entered High School. The change in scenery forced me to change how I handled my allergies. The first thing that I had to adapt to was the open food policy at my school. Prior to High School I did not have to worry about my food allergen being present in scenarios such as class, however now I have to constantly pay attention to my surroundings. I now carry hand wipes, table wipes, and purell everywhere I go. When in class or in the cafeteria I have to keep an eye out for any sort of crumbs, leftover food, etc. Secondly I had to adapt to my school nurses policy. If an emergency were to occur and she had to leave and lock her office that could raise an issue. I may need to have access to my epinephrine in her office at a time when it just so happens to be locked. As a result I now carry two epinephrine injectors with me at all times. I also make sure to let all of my teachers know where I keep it in case an emergency were to ever occur.
These changes have led to me becoming more independent with handling my food allergies.