I’ve had severe food allergies for as long as I can remember. Peanuts and seafood (shellfish and fish) are the biggest culprits. If I ingest these foods, even in trace amounts, I don’t just develop hives or feel sick to my stomach—I could need two injections of epinephrine and a visit to the ER. Yet, too many people still make light of my allergies.
Over the years, I have heard every uninformed, unhelpful, and insensitive comment or question about food allergies imaginable. But the reality is food allergies can be serious or even life-threatening, and they deserve to be taken seriously.
Some of the comments grind my gears more than others, but none of them are conducive to really understanding this frequently underestimated health issue. Most of the time, people insinuate that my food allergies are not real or try to force me to eat foods that I’ve already communicated are a danger. And believe me, I take offense.
Here are a few of the most annoying things you can say to someone with food allergies, plus a few comments or questions I'd suggest instead. This way, we can all be better informed—and respectful—about each other's health.
Um, hello—it absolutely can kill me! One bite is actually all it takes with certain allergens. I'd consider myself a cautious eater, not a fussy one. Is it too much for me to ask that my food doesn’t make me sick or land me in the hospital?
This comment is just plain rude and gives me the sense that my health and well-being don't matter to you. It is a big deal if I'm exposed to "even just a little bit" of my allergens, so this nonchalant attitude could potentially put my health in danger.
No, I'm not being "picky" when I need to read a nutrition label or ingredient list meticulously, or when I ask a lot of questions while ordering at a restaurant, or if I would prefer to go to a different restaurant entirely. I'm being careful.
Yup, I'm sure. I have experienced stomach pains, hives, and an anaphylactic reaction from consuming a food allergen. I’ve also gotten a skin prick test several times, not that I owe you an explanation or proof that my allergies are legitimate.