Teens in the Real World
  Food Allergies in the Real World  

Friends in Unexpected Places: Homecoming

by Michael, age 18. Allergic to fish and shellfish.

Friends always seem to be doing the most unexpected things. Their actions and their attitudes can catch you off guard when they prove just how much they care and understand about you and your allergies. In fact, relationships can begin with people you least expect to care about you. This is what happened to me one evening at a highly regarded high school event—the Homecoming Dance.

Homecoming this year would be similar, in fact, almost identical to every other year. We would dress up, have dinner at a fancy restaurant, and attend the dance. Later that evening, we would get together and socialize at a friend’s house. The only exception for me this year is that I wasn’t going with my usual friends. The group of people I would be accompanying to dinner and the dance were friends of my date. This created an uncomfortable situation for me.

This feeling continued to stay with me at the restaurant as I waited patiently with everyone to be seated. We were at a Japanese steak house where the chef cooks your meal on a large heated surface right in front of you. As I watched I realized that everyone’s meal was being cooked on the same surface. This didn’t seem to bother anyone except me. Now I was feeling uneasy.

I am extremely allergic to shellfish and seafood, both of which were available on the menu. When I realized this, I began to panic immediately. Earlier I had heard members of my group debating whether or not they should order a shrimp dish. I knew I would have an allergic reaction if all our food was cooked on the same surface. I was nervous about explaining my situation to the other members in my group. My health and well-being were at risk. I didn’t feel comfortable telling them about my allergies to seafood. However, I knew that if I were to have an allergic reaction everyone’s night would be ruined. Finally I built up enough courage to explain my situation. I was ready for their stares of disapproval.

To my surprise the stares didn’t come. What I saw instead were looks of care and concern. They had no problem ordering a dish without seafood and even suggested that we dine somewhere else. I was absolutely stunned and at a loss for words. I kept apologizing for the inconvenience but they reassured me that there was nothing to worry about. As it turned out, one of the other guys had a severe allergy to peanuts and tree nuts and knew exactly what I was going through.

I did not expect everyone to be so understanding and concerned. After all, they hardly knew me. Their actions proved to me that the rest of the night would be enjoyable. I realized I had no reason to feel uncomfortable or nervous anymore. As a result of that evening, I established relationships with new friends, and our friendships continue to grow.

Homecoming Dos and Don’ts

Do

Don’t

  • Do ask if ingredient labels are available for you to read. If you aren’t certain of what’s in a food, avoid it.
  • If you don’t feel well after eating something, do tell a friend and follow your action plan, and take your medicine.
  • Do bring a snack to eat at the dance or eat before you go.
  • Do keep your medicine with you at all times.
  • Don’t take chances by assuming a food is safe or guessing what the ingredients are.
  • Don’t ignore your symptoms.
  • Don’t go off by yourself if you start to feel unwell—tell someone.
  • Don’t kiss anyone who may have eaten a food to which you are allergic—this may cause you to have an allergic reaction.
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