It can be hard to tell your peers about your allergies, but it is important to make sure all of your teammates are on the same page as you.
By Avery Kuhn, TAG Member
I have been involved in competitive swimming since I was 8 years old and have been in love with the sport ever since. However, my life-long food allergies have made some elements complicated and difficult to deal with. I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, sesame, shellfish, mustard and even quinoa.
Before I was old enough to do travel meets or team dinners, my allergies were not really a problem. I would just pack safe food to snack on during a meet, and that was it. But now that I am older and attending travel meets and on the high school swim team, the situation has gotten more challenging. Team trips are probably the most difficult because almost everything you do is with your teammates and not overseen by parents or other adults.
It can be hard to tell your peers about your allergies, but it is important to make sure all of your teammates are on the same page as you. Sometimes it can be hard to explain to your teammates why you are not getting anything at a restaurant or at someone’s home, but it is important not to hold back. During team dinners, lunches or breakfasts, for example, the reality is that I can’t have the food being served, but I am usually prepared for that possibility. I always pack plenty of food before the event and I am fine with sometimes just having something to drink if that’s the only safe option. And I always have my EpiPensR handy.
Because I cannot eat at some of the team meals before a meet, it is important for me to always make sure I am getting enough calories to stay ready to race and compete at the best of my ability. That can involve eating in off hours or getting up early or staying up late to eat.
Another challenge is to avoid a reaction before an important meet. Like many with food allergies, I am trying to work up my tolerance for egg under my allergist's supervision. Because I never want to have a reaction before a big meet, I try to avoid building up to the next dose in the days prior to the meet.
Even with these food allergy challenges, I have learned that it is always important to do what you love and to not let food allergies interrupt that. While it may require planning ahead, you can always accommodate your food allergies even while doing an intense sport, and you should never let your allergies interfere with sports and performance or bonding with teammates.