Three Key Tips for Safety and Fun

Three Key Tips for Safety and Fun

A guest post by Teen Advisory Group member Ramsey Makan.

I am allergic to more than 20 foods.

This includes seven of the big eight (excluding wheat) along with many legumes and lentils in addition to sesame and mustard. As you can imagine, this really complicates my life. If I didn’t have these allergies, I’d eat wherever I want without worry. I’d hang out with friends without worrying about whether or not I have my epinephrine. Heck, I’d probably not be a part of TAG! However, I clearly do have them. But they don’t stop me from living my best life. Because I have made peace with them and figured out the key to living with food allergies.

It’s really hard to adapt to food allergies. It was hard for my family when I started reacting to foods at six months old and it would be hard even for an adult developing them later in life. But, like anything else, with time comes practice, and as time has passed, I’ve learned how to manage my food allergies pretty well. There are really only a few key steps to remember.

1. Always carry your epinephrine. This is non-negotiable. Let’s say you’re in high school and you’re heading to a party. It’s just a party and you probably think that you don’t need to bring anything. WRONG! Where is your epinephrine? Whether you use EpiPens, Auvi-Qs, or something else, it is absolutely 100 percent essential that you carry your epinephrine with you at all times. The way you carry it can differ. I put my Auvi-Qs in a bright orange container and carry them in a mini drawstring sack on my back. I have friends who carry them on their belts or in their pockets. Either way, the importance of epinephrine cannot be stressed enough – and that’s why I’m leading a TAG group project called “The Importance of Epinephrine” to make sure that people, especially kids and teens, understand how life-saving it is. I’ve had multiple anaphylactic reactions in my life and multiple trips to the hospital, and every time I’ve always been saved because I carried and used my epinephrine. The number of people who die each year due to food allergies because they forgot or deliberately decided not to bring their epinephrine is shocking and much too high. Carrying your medication sets a good example and is the most important thing you can do to keep yourself protected.

2. Pack some food! Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. So you’re ready to head to your friend’s party. We’ve already established that you have your epinephrine with you (and maybe an inhaler if you have asthma). It’s 7:00 p.m. You’re kind of hungry, but you think, “They’ll probably have something safe for me.” Can you see where I’m going with this? This is the absolute worst attitude to have. You can never assume that someone will have safe food for you. It’s better to go prepared and be safe than be hungry or eat something you’re allergic to and end up in the hospital. Never be embarrassed to bring extra food with you. Whether it’s a field trip, a sleepover, a day out with your friends, or even the movie theaters, always be safe and bring your food. You can never go wrong and you won’t be hungry or at risk.

3. Ask, don’t assume. Awesome! You’ve made it to the party. Your friends have some tiny crackers lying on a table. They look like delicious Ritz crackers, which you’ve had before. Why don’t you just take one? You could either ask a few questions about the food or avoid asking the questions and risk your life because you’re worried that you’ll be embarrassed. I think you know the answer. ASK! Why? Because cookies, crackers, or chips may look familiar to you, but they might not be your safe brand after all. This is actually why “Ask, don’t assume” is the motto of my Disney food allergy blog – Young, Scrappy, and Hungry in Disney – because I know how important it is to not make any dangerous assumptions when you have food allergies, and I want to make sure everyone else knows too. So, when you’re at the party, you ask your friend to find the box for the crackers. They look in their pantry and show you a box of Peanut Butter Ritz Bits. Now you’re glad you asked, right?

If you follow these three key rules for managing food allergies and have loyal people to support you on your journey, your food allergies will never prevent you from fulfilling your dreams. Have fun at the party!