My niece/nephew/cousin/friend etc. now has food allergies, and I have no experience with them. How do I help?
I’m so glad you asked.
A lot of people (not all, but some) will take the stance of “well it doesn’t directly affect me, so it’s not my problem” mentality.
While it is certainly within your right to look out for yourself and your interests, this does not help the broader allergy community. I would also hope that you care enough about the newly-diagnosed person in your life to at least want to learn a bit more about it.
So, to the initial question, here are a few things you can do.
A new allergy diagnosis is scary.
Everyone reacts to it differently and will have their own emotions to sort out. Often it is overwhelming, and your brain will start buzzing with questions.
How will it affect your daily life?
Will people treat me differently?
Will I still/ever be able to eat out at a restaurant?
Will I have to change or cancel plans/events?
How will it affect my work/school?
The best thing you can do (and YAY it’s also the easiest!) is be understanding. Listen. Be patient. The person/child who is affected by the allergy is figuring it all out. They will likely need you at some point for support. But don’t rush them. Let them come to you if and when they’re ready to.
People with food allergies want to live as ordinary a life as possible. Especially with children, people affected by allergies don’t want to feel singled out or different because they can’t eat or certain foods.
Keep inviting them anyway!
It’s simple and requires almost no additional effort on your part. Of course, the person with food allergies may not always be willing or able to say ‘yes’ and attend whatever event/outing/meal you’ve invited them to, but the important thing is that you asked them.
This can be a particularly challenging aspect of living with food allergies for adults that have lived for years with few or none, and then suddenly developed them later in their lives.
Ask Questions. If you genuinely want to know how you can help, ASK! Showing you care is that simple. Taking an interest in what someone is going through can be powerful. You may not be able to do much, but sometimes your presence is all that is required. Perhaps the person with a food allergy wants to vent. Be that outlet for them.
Sometimes they may need you to back them up. We all know some timid people, and they may not be able to express their concerns or discomfort at times. Offering them a “Hey, do you want to get out of here?” could mean the world.
Share this blog! ~ This one should be obvious, but if you know someone who can benefit from this information, share it!
This one is more for those who care for young kids with food allergies. The benefit is learning early what their food allergies are, and food allergy living ends up becoming just another part of life.
The hard part is managing when, and how much control over those allergies do you give to that child. Practicing good habits and educating them is a great foundation to build upon (we’ll cover exactly how you can do this in a later post).
There are also tons of resources available. FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) is a huge one, and they have lots of valuable information and ‘cheat sheets’ you can view and download for free.
May 12th – 18th this year is Food Allergy Awareness Week! We will be working on new content to highlight Food Allergy Awareness especially.
Some more information can be found here.
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