Raising Awareness for Allergies Among Family, Friends, and Co-workers
Allergy awareness might bring thoughts of donating to research and participating in local walks. Awareness activities aim to increase knowledge of an issue to help those it affects. People with allergies stand to benefit from these efforts. They are also uniquely positioned to raise allergy awareness among their circles of family, friends, and co-workers.
Allergy awareness among family
Our family, especially those with whom we live, see firsthand the daily challenges we face living with allergies. This includes our allergic reactions and the extra measures we take to stay safe. They get to see what happens at home.
I was single and lived alone when I discovered I had food allergies. So, no one saw my struggles or frustration in those early days. Only God knew about the tears I shed over food I could no longer eat.
But my immediate and extended family began to see some of the effects of food allergies on me. When we gathered, I did not eat certain foods others had prepared. I brought new dishes to share instead of my favorite recipes.
Answering questions about allergies
My actions sparked questions about allergies. Suddenly, I had an audience. I provided some answers, such as finding out I had food allergies and which foods I needed to avoid. I explained how the elimination diet I was following could help reduce my sensitivities to certain foods.
The questions I couldn't answer revealed the need for more knowledge and, thus, more research and education. I didn't know why I had developed food allergies or if they would ever go away. The link between my allergies and autoimmune condition was not clear either.
But my family members learned a lot from me. They realized people could have allergies to all kinds of foods. These allergies could form in adulthood and affect many aspects of one's life. They discovered all this from talking to a family member — me.
Friends and allergy awareness
I helped raise awareness of allergies among my friends, much like I did among my family. Our get-togethers often centered around food. I would meet with a friend at a coffee shop or with a group of friends at a restaurant. We would talk while eating a meal or a snack and sipping coffee or tea.
My friends noticed the changes in my eating behaviors too. I quit ordering things like black tea, pasta, and sandwiches. I ate very little at potlucks. I even declined invitations to dine at much-loved restaurants.
When my friends asked about my actions, I admitted I had food allergies. I told them about the blood test that had confirmed the diagnosis. I shared with my closest friends how hard it was not to be able to eat what I used to and wanted to.
Allergy awareness with co-workers
We all need to eat during our workday. But we don't always get to eat by ourselves. In my field of work as a writer for companies and non-profit organizations, eating at an event or meeting with other people is expected.
So, people at work have also seen how food allergies have impacted me. I have walked through many buffet lines only to find 1 or 2 items I could consume without harm. Sometimes I didn't touch the food served to me on a plate. Once, I even had an allergic reaction to an ingredient that a waiter had said was not in a dish.
Dealing with judgement to lead to understanding
Co-workers have asked me lots of questions too. Do you not want to eat this tasty meal we are having? How can you resist the dessert? Why did you bring other food with you? Is that all you are going to eat?
Each time, I had a chance to make a statement. I informed my co-workers of my food allergies and what I knew. Sharing about my experience increased their understanding.
The results of greater allergy awareness
I did not expect what would happen when I told others about my food allergies. They showed interest. People expressed compassion and concern for my well-being. And they acted accordingly.
Their actions surprised me the most. My mom started cooking allergen-free dishes and some of those have become new family favorites. Some friends offered to meet for a walk instead of a meal.
My co-workers ensured every function with food had something I could eat, such as fresh fruits and vegetables or a salad with plain chicken. They even ordered gluten-free cupcakes for special occasions!
All of this has made me realize the importance of raising awareness of allergies. Awareness enhances understanding. This can prompt support and other actions to help improve daily life for people like me.
Have you ever had to change holiday plans due to you or your loved ones allergies?