Irish Dance & Soccer with Food Allergies
By Teen Advisory Group (TAG) member Grace O'Hara
I am 14 years old and I have had a peanut allergy since the age of two. I started competitive Irish step dancing at the age of four and soccer at the age of five. From the beginning, my parents and I knew that dealing with my allergy, while still having a good time, would be tough, but we would find a way to successfully manage being in a group setting.
I have found that one of the best ways to stay safe when I am at a game with my team or I am traveling with them, is to bring my own snacks. That way, I know that they are safe and I do not have to worry.
Sometimes it can be tough to find energizing snacks that are also peanut-free, but after many years of researching, I now have certain snacks that I always carry with me. Allergy safe granola products have been great for me because they give me enough energy to get through a game or competition while also being safe to eat. There are also many brands now that offer a variety of sweets like jelly beans, chocolate pretzels, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies. These products still taste delicious and I love that they are properly labeled and safe. Sometimes, I have to travel overseas for my dance competitions, so these snacks are great to bring in my suitcase. I never know what the grocery stores in other countries will have available for me, so bringing these snacks helps me to be prepared. A lot of times I find that at a game or competition, the concessions only have candies that have nuts in them or were processed in a facility that handles nuts. That is why having your own nut-free snacks on me is very important.
On gameday, I always have certain items in my bag.
One thing that I always make sure to have are antibacterial wipes. These are important when I need to wipe down a seat or my hands if someone who just ate nuts touched something that I then touched. These help me to stay extra safe so I can focus on the game. I also carry the snacks I previously mentioned for energy. Then, I always make sure I have my own drinks for the day because sharing drinks with teammates can be very dangerous for people with food allergies. Even just one sip of someone’s drink could lead to me going into anaphylactic shock if they have just eaten peanuts and then put their mouth on that drink. These items help me to be safe on gameday, so that I can focus on having fun and winning my game!
When I am warming up with my teammates before a game or even at practice, I make sure to ask them if they have eaten any peanuts that day.
If they have, then I kindly ask them to brush their teeth if it is possible or at least wash their hands with soap. That helps me stay safe in case I am touching the same ball as them. Since they are your teammates, they should agree to this. If they do not, I would advise going to the coach or just trying to explain to them how serious it is that they listen to you. If you are worried that your teammates have brought snacks containing your allergen, you can kindly ask them to not eat it. If you feel bad not letting them eat their snack, then you can do something that I always do. I make sure to bring more of my safe snacks for the entire team so that I know what everyone is eating. Many of my friends now love my peanut free snacks and buy them for themselves at home! I hope that these tips and tricks that I have given you will help you to stay safe during your sports events while being able to take your mind off of your allergy and just enjoy the game!