Members of FAAN's Teen Advisory Group share their most embarassing food allergy moments.
A Day of Thanks and Embarrassment
It was Thanksgiving Day and the aroma of the wonderful meal filled the air. On the kitchen table were all the foods brought by relatives and friends. As soon as it was time to eat, I had my dish filled. When I had finished eating, my stomach was satisfied and I felt great, but not for long! Every Thanksgiving, my family and friends play a football game. During the middle of the game I started to get short of breath, and I thought it was my asthma. Then I started to get hives on my arms and chest. I knew then I was having an allergic reaction. I ran inside and showed my mom. All 40 people in my house watched as I was having a reaction. Even though I knew most of them, it was still embarrassing. I didn’t want my food allergies to ruin their day. My uncle and aunt are both doctors, so I was treated properly and relieved of all my symptoms, but I was still a little embarrassed that the reaction occurred in front of everyone.
~Nick, age 16, allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, legumes, and sheep's milk
First Day Impressions
My most embarrassing moment with my food allergies happened when I was 7 years old. It was my first day of second grade. At the beginning of class, my teacher made an announcement about a special student with special requirements. The teacher stated that “no student should bring peanuts in the classroom for a snack.” She also made it clear that no student should come into physical contact with this student if they had eaten peanuts. Naturally, it was important the students know who this “special student” was, so the teacher informed them. I was embarrassed. I wanted to run out of the room. I knew the other kids didn’t understand me or my allergies. I was so embarrassed to have the entire class learn about my food allergies in that way.
~John, age 16, allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, wheat, shellfish, and lamb
I went to engineering camp at a university and lived with a roommate for a week. After I met my assigned roommate, we struck up a conversation, and as we walked into our room, I feasted my eyes upon an economy-sized can of cashews. My roommate then proceeded to gush about how great cashews were, and how she couldn’t live without them. After knowing this girl for roughly 10 minutes, I had to crush her hopes of eating her favorite food at her leisure. I was initially afraid to tell her that she would have to enjoy her cashews outside of our room, but quickly realized that I needed to bring it to her attention. She ended up asking me if I liked cashews, so this left the perfect spot in our conversation to inform her about my food allergy and that I was severely allergic to nuts. She reacted really well and agreed to eat all of her cashews outside of our room.
The experience taught me that I really have nothing to fear in advocating for myself because most people understand dietary restrictions. If a person doesn’t understand the severity of food allergies, a little explanation can go a long way. If I decided to not say anything, it would have been a dangerous environment for me. I learned that it is always crucial to inform people about allergies because the consequences of not doing that are much worse.
~Alexandra, age 17, allergic to peanuts and tree nuts
Gingerbread Gone Wrong
My most embarrassing moment with my food allergies was at Sunday school in seventh grade. I was in the main room at my Sunday school, along with about 100 other kids, and I knew about 20 of them. The people I knew already knew about my food allergies. That night we had a lesson that involved making gingerbread houses, and I was allergic to the ingredients in the candy they were using. My Sunday school leader checked his paperwork to see if anyone had food allergies and found I had to avoid the food. I appreciated him doing this, but instead of talking to me ahead of time and in private, he said in front of 100 people, “Where’s the girl who is allergic to everything?” I had to walk up to the front of the room all by myself and he discussed what I was going to do in front of everyone! I wanted to curl up in a ball and go hide in a cave! The rest of that Sunday school year when I met someone they would say, “Oh, you’re the girl with all those food allergies!”
~Elena, age 12, allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, beef, and sesame
One of my most embarrassing food allergy moments happened at a restaurant in New Orleans. My family was there on vacation with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. We had called the restaurant beforehand and they had assured us there would be something safe for me to eat. When the waiter came to take my order, I told him about my food allergy and I asked if the dish I wanted would be safe for me. Instead of listening, or even looking at me, he just brushed me off and said it would be fine. I knew he wasn’t really paying attention so I repeated myself, asking him to check with the chef.
Then the waiter started talking back to me and asserting that I “wasn’t trusting him.” The rest of my family was paying close attention now. He sarcastically asked me if I wanted to come back into the kitchen to talk to the chef. Immediately, I agreed. He growled since he wasn’t really inviting me, but I just smiled. He was trying to make me feel uncomfortable, but in fact I had been in restaurant and industrial kitchens many times before. My mom thought she was being discreet when she called the waiter over, raised the menu in front of her face, and told him that he should listen to me and take my questions seriously. However, she attracted a lot attention from nearby tables.
Then, I got up and we went into the kitchen. Luckily, the chef was very nice. He showed me the ingredients he was going to use to make my food and I felt confident that it would be safe. I did have a safe meal, but it was really embarrassing to have such a commotion made. I knew it was better to make a big deal about my allergy than to let the restaurant staff just ignore it and put my health in danger. I wish all servers knew how to handle food allergies appropriately and respectfully.
~Tori, age 15, allergic to peanuts