Teens in the Real World
  Food Allergies in the Real World  

Real-Life Food Allergies in College

by Abby, age 23. Allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and soy.

I found out about my food allergies my senior year of college. I have a severe allergy to peanuts, and I learned about it when I kissed my boyfriend after he had eaten peanut butter. I took Benadryl® thinking I would be okay, but after the medicine wore off, my throat was still closing—so off I went to the hospital.

Since I was in college when I learned about my food allergies, my friends really helped me learn how to manage them. My friends were the ones who spent hours in the grocery store with me, trying to figure out what I could eat. My friends were the ones who cooked me special dinners when others were going out to eat. They became my family. Together we found restaurants around my university where I could eat. It was important to tell my friends everything about my allergy. Roommates may get annoyed, but if you are firm and calmly explain things, people will understand and help you in any way possible.

The hardest part about managing my food allergies was going out to meet guys. As a senior in college, I would go to bars with my friends on the weekends. The “normal” college experience was to go out and possibly meet a guy. However, with my newfound allergies, I learned to screen any guy I wanted to kiss, to learn what he had eaten that day. I learned to be open and honest with guys about my allergy right off the bat. I couldn’t play the girl games of hiding things. Although I was nervous about being so straightforward, if anything, I gained friends because I was so open with new guys.

When going out with friends, I also had to be very careful about sharing drinks. I had always kept my glass close to me, but now more than ever I have a trustworthy friend watch it for me as well. Nothing has ever happened to me when I have been out with my friends, but it is always best to be safe and to be prepared. In fact, all my friends are trained to use an EpiPen® on me. I was given a practice one and my friends had fun trying it out. Knowing that my friends would be willing to use the EpiPen® to help me makes me feel safe.

When I graduated and moved home for a summer, I taught my parents about my food allergy. They were eager to learn anything and everything to help me. I have also learned to train anyone who spends time with me.

I am still learning how to live with food allergies, but I can say it has made me a stronger person. I have learned how to cook and bake because I can’t buy as many things at the grocery store. Experimenting in the kitchen has been fun, and all my friends and family have loved trying my creations. I feel having a food allergy has changed me for the better.

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