As an inquisitive young adult, I have not let my allergies get in the way of living a fulfilling life. Of course, there have been difficult periods when I have struggled adapting to a growing list of allergens as well as overcoming a fear of eating out after having an anaphylactic reaction. However, with the right support, communication and confidence, my food allergy doesn’t stop me engaging with life to the fullest.
With my food allergy, I have travelled overseas, travelled remotely in Australia, camped, eaten out an abundant amount of times, gone to university and worked casually in retail and hospitality. I want to share a few tips and tricks with others about what I have learned along the way! I hope these encourage YOU to engage with the vast experiences life has to offer.
– I am always accompanied by food allergy cards when travelling that have required language translations, as well as translation apps on my phone
– During flights I eat my own pre-prepared meals and snacks which do not require reheating, to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. I packed steamed vegetables and quinoa on my last flight to Europe with lots of snacks including popcorn, fava beans and rice cakes
– In my checked luggage I brought lots of safe, packaged snacks that I am familiar with to take on day trips. This meant if I got hungry in between meals I wouldn’t have the stress of trying to find something small and safe to eat. Instead, I could fuel up and keep going
– Be ready to communicate your food allergy up to several times a day across language and cultural barriers. While it may seem confrontational your safety is paramount. Also, it is incredibly rewarding to closely learn about the cuisine of another culture while trying out new language skills!
– Always carry your own snacks! Sometimes you spend longer on campus then intended as you chose to study in a quiet spot or hang out with friends. At my campus, safe snacks were not readily available as a lot of the food was made off site and not labelled. I ALWAYS packed my own snacks to have them on hand in case I got hungry. Familiar, labelled and packaged foods in vending machines may be another GREAT option for a quick snack.
– If there is a facility/cafe on campus you would like to try and eat at, have a chat to staff during a quiet period to discuss your food allergies and whether they can safely cater for you. As university degrees are usually a few of years long, it is a worthwhile investment to get to know a facility so they can become familiar with your dietary needs!
– Talk to new friends about your allergies. My food allergies were always a great topic of conversation to bring up while getting to know a classmate. Also, letting new friends know about your allergies is reassurance that there are people to help look out for you!
– I have worked in both retail and hospitality and, at times, have found these environments tricky! In hospitality I worked at a café that had no tree nuts (peanut butter is fine for me!). However, the café did use honey (one of my allergens), in some foods and hot beverages. The staff were ALL incredibly vigilant, supportive and sensitive in navigating my allergy. They would ensure the honey was kept to an isolated area that it would be thoroughly cleaned afterwards. I was not expected to clean dishes if honey had been used that day. This level of vigilance is unlikely to be possible in all hospitality contexts- and it is most important that in any workplace you feel safe. They are many places I would not feel comfortable working at if my allergens were used more frequently. It really is a team effort in these contexts to contribute to your safety. I am really lucky and grateful for their support!
– In retail, my managers and colleagues were really supportive, too. They understood the severity of my allergy. However, if someone had forgotten and brought any of my allergens into work, they would put the food away immediately. There were times customers would enter eating nuts, too. This would make me incredibly anxious. Again, I was very lucky I had colleagues around me who were happy to step in and serve the customer as well as ask them to stop eating the food while they were in store.
– Overall, it is important to ensure you feel safe and supported in your workplace– wherever you choose to work! A job should not impede on your safety so make sure you always talk to managers and colleagues about your allergies.
– ALWAYS mention your allergy. Even if you frequently visit a place, remind them. It is important to speak up!
– If an establishment ever makes you feel unsafe, leave and eat somewhere else.
– Contact the establishment beforehand. It is a really comforting feeling to enter a restaurant and for them to be aware of your allergy and ready to help cater for you!
– Stick to simple meals. As many people with food allergy understand, eating out is really about our relationships and connections with others. I always try to keep my food choices simple to ensure I can enjoy a good meal while sharing the experience with friends and family. On some occasions I have ordered a more complex meal. These tend to make me anxious due to the potential of cross-contamination and missed ingredients!
I hope some of these tips and insights
help. If you want me to share anymore, please feel free to reach out! Having
food allergies has drawn many positives into my life: community, confidence,
connection and people. I prefer to be grateful for what I have- as I can’t
change it. Remember you are not alone and PLEASE reach out for support if you
are ever struggling with managing your allergies. Finally, ALWAYS carry
your adrenaline autoinjector- no excuses!
Love and kindness!
Jackie @Allergieswithjackie xx