How To Support a Food Allergic Friend or Family Member
When I shared my first food allergy post a year ago, This Food Allergy Life, I was overwhelmed by everyone’s support! Whether readers also had food allergies or never considered the extent of how it impacts one’s life. Realizing that there are people in the world who don’t have allergies in their life, but empathize, I thought I would put together a few quick tips on how you can support a friend or relative who has food allergies or sensitivities. The whole point of a holiday get-together and BBQ's is to bring friends and family together.
Here are a few tips on how to support a friend or family member with food allergies:
1. Ask questions- It’s okay, just ask the question! It’s actually a simple gesture that shows your family member you care enough to ask, you want to understand. It makes my heart happy when friends and family ask for recommendations on safe food choices.
2. Learn the allergy action plan, especially if you are ever the primary caregiver, you need to know how to administer epinephrine. A training device should be available with the prescription injector. If you’re afraid of injecting epinephrine this is a good indicator that you need to practice! Here is a great resource on administering epinephrine.
3. Dining out? Suggest a restaurant that you know is sensitive to food allergies. If you’re not comfortable making the call, suggest your food allergic friend family member make the choice. With our daughter, I always review a menu and call in advance to see how accommodating a restaurant may be and what our options are.
4. Dining in? Whether it’s a small get together or a family reunion, think about food choices that could accommodate your food allergic family member. Make sure they are first in the food line, to avoid possible cross contamination. Remember it’s not just the food, it’s all of the surfaces that may have come in contact. Food preparation surfaces, utensils, etc. When possible, reserve food for the family member in advance so they have their own clean bowl of pasta salad, not to be contaminated by the mayo on the potato salad spoon.
5. Keep the packaging & food labels- reading food labels is a part time job for the food allergic community. Read labels every time. If you are using a separate serving bowl/tray, consider saving the package to let your friend or family member review ingredient lists or allergen considerations. The best option is to let them serve themselves from the unopened package!
6. Don’t be offended. Food is a way for people to come together and to celebrate. Don’t be offended if your friend or family member chooses to BYOF (Bring Your Own Food). It’s not that we don’t trust you, we don’t trust anyone!
7. Non-food treats- not only do we celebrate with food, we often reward with food. I know it’s lame, you want to offer the full size snickers bar at Halloween, but it’s the sweetest gesture when non-food treats are available. From Halloween to Birthday Parties, you can find a lot of options like stickers, pencils, mini coloring books and more! Check out the Target Dollar spot for great seasonal options.
8. Consider your 4 legged friends- I know this seems out of place but stay with me, dogs love peanut butter. If you regularly throw down a Kong filled with PB for your furry pal, just mention it to your friend or family member so they can take precaution petting the dog or choosing a safe place to visit in your home.
9. Wash up- with soap and water. If you eat or drink something before or during a visit with a food allergic friend or family member, wash up with soap and water on your hands and face. Wiping down surfaces that may have been in contact is another precaution that will be greatly appreciated.
I know it can be overwhelming to understand the accommodations that a simple BBQ or family party may demand. We have spent years of settling into this food allergy life and we live it every day. When in doubt, always ask questions, even if you think you should know the answer, you're not in it every day. It's reassuring to those who are in it every day and it shows that you care. From my experience, I couldn't be more grateful to our circle of friends, teachers and family who have been so attentive and understanding. As a food allergy Mom, I will never feel bad for speaking up to advocate for my daughter, in hopes that she grows up to continue to advocate for herself.
Do you have advice that I missed in this article?! Please share in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org