Advice For Teens, By Teens - Jaqueline

School


School can be very tricky with food allergies! The number one thing to remember is to always have your medicines on hand. I carry my own medicines with me and the nurse also has my epi-pen, inhaler, Benadryl, and other medications. When I was in elementary school, my teachers and the nurse would keep my medications. Your teachers, classmates, and friends should all learn how to administer epinephrine because their actions can make all the difference when it comes to an allergic reaction. School and food are very closely intertwined, the most obvious situation is lunch. I have always brought my own homemade lunches and snacks.  However, many schools, if arranged beforehand, can assist those with food allergies who get school-provided lunch. You just need to discuss your allergies and the special precautions with the person who is in charge of the school meal services and the people that serve the food. It is best if your friends don’t eat your allergens, but that may be hard, so make sure you have them wash their hands well. Some schools have nut-free tables that you can sit at, but for me, I have more allergies than just nuts, so the tables weren’t very effective. Often food can also be part of celebrations or academic experiments. For parties, if I know about it beforehand, I will usually bring my own treats. When I was younger, I would have my own treat bag that my teacher kept. If students bring in food for presentations, I will usually decline unless it is clearly labeled and I check the ingredients thoroughly. In general, I don’t eat homemade food that other students bring and I only eat the packaged items that I have had before (like candy). In 7th grade, we did an experiment with eggs. Luckily, we worked in groups, so I recorded most of the data while my other group members worked with the actual egg. I have never run into very big problems with airborne reactions, so as long as I am not handling or ingesting the allergen itself, I am okay. It is important to make sure your teacher knows you have food allergies, so they understand how it will affect your participation in class. For field trips, whether they are day trips or overnight trips, I always plan ahead and work with the people in charge to make sure I will be safe and have good food options available. Food involvement in school can make having allergies very tough, but you can still enjoy yourself while staying safe if you take the right steps.


Restaurants

Eating out is one of the biggest challenges people with food allergies face. Going to restaurants should be a time full of fun, relaxation, and delicious food, but for those with food allergies, it is often full of anxiety and stress. We have to take many safety measures. I always research restaurants before going, whether that means looking at their menu online, taking a recommendation from a friend with food allergies, or calling them to ask what they could make for me. When I do go to the restaurant physically, I come prepared with all of the necessary medicines. I also bring along a card that I can give to the chef, listing my food allergies and common products that contain them. Ordering is one of the most crucial parts. I tell my server my allergies and I ask what they think would be a good option for me. If I already have a dish in mind, but I need some ingredients substituted I also ask about that. The best way to feel safe is to speak directly to the chef since they are the source of your food. Cross-contamination should never be looked over, you should make sure the chef understands the importance of using clean tools and appliances when preparing your food. I’ve encountered many waiters/waitresses who don’t take food allergies seriously or seem very careless when I make an order. If this makes me uncomfortable, then I will eat my own food instead. (I always bring my own food just in case.) Once the food arrives, you still need to be cautious. You should not eat the entire thing super fast, but rather take your time so you can monitor how you feel. Even though going to restaurants is hard with food allergies, it brings more awareness to the need for allergy-friendly options in restaurants. 


Traveling

Exploring somewhere new is always exciting! However, food allergies can constrict your freedom during an adventure. Before you go on your trip, you should research your destination and the popular restaurants and style of cuisine. If you can find food options that’s great, but if not, you should plan your homemade meals. Make sure your living accommodations have a kitchen or at least a microwave and a mini-fridge available. You should plan what groceries you will need to buy upon arrival and what snacks/meals you will be bringing. During transportation, whether it is a plane, car, train, boat, or bus, you should wipe down your seat and other fixtures you will spend a lot of time around. Make sure to always carry a small bag that contains your medicines, extra snacks, a meal, money, tissues, wipes, hand sanitizer, etc. If you do eat out, make sure to take all necessary safety measures like talking to the chef and having your medicines on hand. If you feel unsafe eating outside food, stick to your own safe food. The experiences you choose to have during your trip should be where you are taking risks, being bold, and trying new things because you may never get those opportunities again. Enjoy yourself and live in the moment!



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