FOR TEENAGERS WITH ALLERGIES 

Managing food allergies at school can be very challenging. You have to be cautious during school activities and field trips, and it can be a struggle to fit in. 

Dining Out

Going out to restaurants can be stressful. You have to be cautious of potential cross-contamination, allergy-friendly meals, and a confused waiter. 

About one-third of children and teens with food allergies are bullied, simply because they are different. Children have been taunted, teased, and threatened because of their allergies. 

FOR TEENS, BY TEENS 

Advice Column

Jiya - @foodallergyyouth

Advice for teens dealing with food allergies in school: It’s best to tell your friends and classmates about your allergies. Sometimes, it can be hard explaining this condition to other people and you may not want to. But, the more aware the people around you are, the safer you are. If your friends are aware of it, they can refrain from bringing foods you’re allergic to, into school. Another important idea to remember is to not care what the other kids in your school think about your allergies and how you deal with them. Food allergies are extremely serious so you need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself and to not let other people’s thoughts of you get in the way. Just remember, you’re not alone and there’s plenty of other teens just like you going to school everyday and also managing their social life while having food allergies:)

Sara Hantgan

Hi, my name is Sara Hantgan and I am allergic to dairy, sesame, tree nuts, avocado, banana, and mustard. Regarding my social life and school experience, fortunately, food allergies have not impacted it as much as it has for other kids. With that being said, the most important thing that I consistently do–although this may be a given–is bringing safe snacks and/or meals in case, as it is always difficult to guarantee safe food. Before attending restaurants, it is always beneficial to check the menu and call ahead of time. And, if you have multiple food allergies, like me, printing out cards in multiple languages can prevent confusion and miscommunication in restaurants. As for my social life and for others with food allergies, I recommend talking with your friends about your allergies so they understand the extent to which. This has been extremely beneficial for me, as my friends are understanding and now check in with me when needed. If we are going out to eat, they always check with me to see if a restaurant is okay. And for my close friends, for parties, they will typically get me something else if I cannot eat what everyone else is having. I hope these tips help!

Rhett

Having allergies is a huge obstacle that never truly exits your life. Each moment of your day, there is a thought inside of your head pertaining to your allergies. I have been in a countless amount of situations where I’m unable to eat something, yet the rest of my friends can. This isolates me and singles me out from the rest of the group. Furthermore, not being able to eat leaves you hungry and seeking food. As a result of this, you force others to go out of their way to help you and that is something I hate doing. Taking all of this into consideration, having allergies presents an extremely daunting task due to many people not really being able to understand the concept. It is vital to get people to understand this concept of allergies and what an anaphylactic allergic reaction is. Once this concept is understood, it is much easier to speak of your allergies and discuss them with others. All in all, making people aware of your allergies and trying to get them to understand them is always the best thing and most beneficial for yourself.

Lauren

My name is Lauren and I have lived with food allergies my whole life. I am allergic to dairy, egg, and kiwi. When I was younger, my parents always handled my food allergies for me. But, since I am now in high school, I have taken on a lot of responsibility. One of the hardest things to adjust to was going to high school with my food allergies. I had to grow my confidence a lot so that I could advocate for myself. I have always been sort of shy, so it has been difficult- but, I have grown a lot. I realized that I would have to learn to advocate for myself because I will most likely be dealing with my food allergies for a long time. Because of how severe my food allergies are, at the beginning of each year I have a meeting with all of my teachers and my mom. We tell them about my food allergies and how they need to be handled. Throughout the year, I have to speak up for myself if we ever have food in the classroom or if I think that something is unsafe to be around. Sometimes even lunch is a struggle. For example, I have my own table that I have to sit at but only a few friends are able to sit there with me. I always wish that I could sit at a regular table, but I know this is the only way to remain completely safe. I also had to find a way to carry my epinephrine. I have other medicines that I have to carry as well, so a small pouch would not work. I ended up getting a mini backpack and sometimes I am embarrassed to have to take it everywhere with me. But, I remind myself that I need it to remain safe. Throughout my first year of high school, many struggles came up but I was able to move past them all. I always think about how different I would be if I did not have my food allergies. I have become so much more confident and outspoken than I would have been if I did not have them. I am almost glad to have my food allergies because they have brought many life-changing experiences into my life that I would not have had without them. I hope that some of the things I have done to go to high school with food allergies are helpful to you!

Alia

My name is Alia O'Brien, and I've had food allergies since I was diagnosed at six months. Eating out with food allergies is a difficult experience. Unlike most people, we can't just stop into a restaurant because it's close, or has a really cool sounding name. When my family and I go out to eat, I always look up the menu of the place we are going to see if there is anything that sounds safe, or like it could be adapted to be safe. If the restaurant is new, we will always inform them of my allergies and ask if they are equipped to handle them before getting a seat. Once we have a seat, I pull out an index card or piece of paper and write down everything I'm allergic to, making sure to start the allergies that cause anaphylactic reactions. Then, I write down what I would like to eat. I frequently mix and match dishes with sides, because most of the time, there isn't one dish with all safe sides. When the waiter comes to take my order, I explain that I've written down everything I'm allergic to, and what I would like to eat. I then ask them to take the card back to the chef to see if it would be possible. Sometimes the waiter will be resistant, saying they will just recite it back to the chef themselves. Personally, I don't feel comfortable with that, and I politely but firmly insist that they take the card back. Frequently, the chef or manager will come over and talk to me about ingredients, how they're preparing my food, and anything else that is relevant. I always appreciate it when they do that, because it lets me know that they are taking the time to prioritize my safety and make sure I have a good experience. When my food arrives, I always double check it before digging in. More than once, there has been some mayonnaise on my burger or some random cheese shreds under the veggies. Even when I have become familiar with a restaurant, I still follow this procedure, because it's super important that my vigilance, and the restaurant's, don't decrease just because I am comfortable. Different people have different routines, but this is what I've found has been most helpful for me. I hope this helps!

Megan

Diagnosed with food allergies to dairy, nuts, sesame, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, and kiwi at the age of six months changed my life completely. While the kids in my kindergarten class were able to be careless I had to grow up fast to speak up and be cautious. I have been asked the most astounding questions such as “Am I allergic to water?” and kids at school would tease me with the foods I was allergic to by putting them close to my face. Allergies have made me feel ashamed I felt it hard to speak up because I felt as though there were bigger problems in the world. As a kid, the concept of not eating birthday cakes at parties was very degrading. I constantly am in a paranoid state of mind and after my first anaphylaxis reaction I was always scared of death and eating out. I tried to avoid restaurants as much as I could, however, as I have gotten older and used the great tool of technology I have been able to research what restaurants are a good fit for me so I feel some sense of trust when I walk through the doors. I read reviews beforehand and make sure to call in ahead of time to see what accommodations can be made to a dish I would order. Allergies can be difficult enough because there are so many uncertainties, however, when dating someone I have learned communication is key. In my relationship, I knew it was important that I spoke up about my allergies before my significant other felt responsible. We do not eat things the other person cannot have and I always make sure to double that he has not eaten my allergen before our date. Although allergies are a full-time job no one signs up for my advice would be to do your research and get in touch with a food allergy community near you. One thing I did not know about was how supportive and widespread the food allergy community is. I have not only been able to find friends like me, but I have also helped others with many projects. To anyone who suffers from allergies I hope you know this world has endless possibilities and you make your experience what you want it to be at the end of the day. Although food allergies can push you to your lowest being optimistic and finding unique ways to work around them makes life so much more exciting.

Ally

Hi! I’m Ally, a 16-year-old with peanut and tree nut allergies. So far, I thankfully haven’t had any allergic reactions, and I’ve learned how to handle my allergies and advocate for myself.  For the most part, I haven’t had many issues eating out at restaurants. I mention my allergies before ordering, and I tend to stick to meals I know I haven’t had any problems with. If I’m going to a restaurant I’m not very familiar with, I look up their menu and make sure there’s the food I can order. However, I have had a few issues eating out when I was traveling. Thankfully, I didn’t have any severe reactions in many cases. There were a few instances where I’ve gotten meals that mistakenly had peanuts, even after telling the server about my allergies, so I’ve learned that while eating out, especially when traveling abroad, it’s best to not only bring my allergies to attention but to also double-check through my food before eating anything. While it’s a little more work, it’s better to be safe than sorry! 

My experiences at school have been more of a mixed bag. For the most part, my teachers are good at keeping my allergies in mind. I mention my allergies within the first week - usually on the first day. Most of my teachers have stated and reinforced a “no eating nuts in the classroom” policy, but I’ve had experiences ranging from teachers bringing in treats I can’t eat, to teachers being very understanding and accommodating. At school, I always carry my own auto-injectors and also have some at the nurse’s office, and I make sure my friends know where I keep mine, just in case. If there are any after-school events, I always bring extra snacks with me to school to make sure I can eat something, since there have been many treats I’ve had to skip on for my own safety. In middle school, I had a bullying issue when other kids were making jokes I felt uncomfortable with about my allergies. While things were eventually handled, it could’ve gone much smoother. However, I did learn that if there is a problem you need to report, your teachers can be very helpful. While my mom helped me report the problem to the principal, he hadn’t done everything he could to really help, but after I mentioned what was happening to a teacher -  who had always been very understanding and always made sure I had food I could eat on school trips - she helped make sure the school took this issue seriously. If you ever have any issues, I would suggest talking to a teacher you can trust and know would help you with the problem. One of my teachers has even checked to make sure I can get food from the school cafe, where I was previously advised not to eat any of the products there because they were uncertain of the ingredients. If there’s any advice I could give, it’s to reach out to a teacher who is willing to help you if you have any problems, as some of mine have been very helpful. I hope this can help someone out there!

Emily

I was diagnosed with food allergies when I was two years old. I’ve been lucky enough to have really supportive friends and family when it comes to my allergies. They’ve always had my back. I’ve struggled sometimes with the lack of education that a lot of people who don’t have allergies have. There is not enough awareness about food allergies outside the food allergy community, and that’s always been a source of difficulty for me. I’ve been teased about my allergy a few times, but I’ve always had friends who have stood with me and protected me. Some advice I would give to people who have just been diagnosed with food allergies or are struggling is to build a support network to turn to when you need it. Also, never be afraid to ask questions to restaurant staff. They are there to help you. Talk to managers, chefs, and wait staff, and even call ahead if you want to. Another thing to remember is that your allergies don’t have to hold you back. You can do anything you want--there are ways around allergies. They shouldn’t stop you from living your life. Stay strong and never be afraid to ask for help or support!

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