A Letter to my Friends – What I Want You to Know About Food Allergies

Dear friend,

If you’ve known me for a while, you know I have food allergies. You probably know they’re severe. But do you really understand what that means?

I appreciate it when you offer me a snack. I love it when you go through the effort of making it gluten free. And yet I probably can’t eat it. If you baked it in an oven, I don’t know what else was in that oven. If utensils or cookware were not dedicated for gluten-free use, how do I know they’re 100% clean? Was the kitchen also dedicated? I can’t know what else might have been on the counters, and the list goes on and on.

I feel terrible when I have to refuse. I hope you don’t think it’s by choice. Because it’s not. I never chose to go gluten-free. I was diagnosed first with Celiac disease and it became a severe respiratory allergy. Trace amounts of gluten or wheat will result in anaphylaxis. Do you know what that is?

It’s when your body rejects the allergen so harshly it leaves you struggling to breathe. There’s congestion in your chest. You’re wheezing. It comes on so fast, you could be caught completely unaware. For me, it’s often exercise-induced and delayed, so I could have the reaction the day after ingesting wheat.

I don’t want you to feel bad for me. I’ve lived with this most of my life. That’s not going to change, but I’m determined to thrive with food allergies. So I need your help. I need you to know how serious it is to have a severe food allergy. Not so you’ll walk on eggshells, but so you can aware and informed.

I need your help to raise awareness. If we who deal with this every day can educate others about the dangers, the realities of severe food allergies, it will make things a lot easier – and safer.

I’m just like you. I want to be normal. I want to have a sleepover without being afraid of cross-contamination. I want to join you on a trip without having to double-check everything and have a solid emergency plan in place. But I can’t. And that’s okay.

I just need you to know why I can’t. Because it’s not by choice.

Love,
Hannah

Thanks for reading, guys! Please feel free to take this “letter” and modify it for your own situation, or share it on social media with your friends. Let’s chat in the comments! What is the biggest obstacle for you when it comes to managing food allergies and friendships?

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