Are you a friend to a person with a severe allergy? That friendship can come with some challenges. Being prepared for them is the best way to handle them when they arise.
I wrote an open letter to my friends a while ago, because I wanted people to know how important it is to be educated about your friend’s allergy in order to support them – even watch out for them.
Today I want to go more in depth on that topic. Because many people know somebody with a severe allergy. And let me speak from experience, there is nothing more meaningful to that person than a friend who truly understands what food allergies mean.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Food allergies are serious. They can be life-threatening.
Non life-threatening reactions include hives, joint pain, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, and others. These can occur with even a trace of cross-contamination with the allergen. More dangerous reactions include anaphylaxis (which causes difficulty breathing and can cause the individual to lose consciousness) and EOE (eosinophilic esophagitis, a chronic immune illness; not life-threatening unless untreated and persistent; causes the esophagus to close).
- “A little bite” is as dangerous and possibly deadly as an entire meal.
There is no cheating on severe allergies. A little bite, a meal, an invisible crumb – they’re all the same.
- No one wants to live with food allergies.
Your friend with an airborne allergy doesn’t want to refuse when you ask to go to McDonald’s. Your friend with Celiac doesn’t want to make you feel bad because she can’t risk contamination in those cookies you baked. What she does want is to help you understand the enormous risk it is for her. And trust me, we don’t need anyone to offer us a snack. We’re good, really. 😉
WHAT YOU NEED TO WATCH FOR
- Asthma-like symptoms
YOU need to know the symptoms of your friend’s typical reaction. YOU need to know when to step in, because not everyone will inject an EpiPen or stop what they’re doing when they know they should. In anaphylaxis, watch for asthma-like symptoms, including gasping for air, wheezing, and coughing.
Someone may make an excuse for not injecting an EpiPen. There is no excuse. At this time, there is no verified alternative medical treatment for a severe allergic reaction. Most people won’t hesitate too long before injecting epinephrine, but be aware of this, all the same.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
- Know how to give Epi.
If you ask your friend, they will very likely tell you exactly how to administer the EpiPen, in the event that they can’t do it themselves. Think of it as first-aid. You just should know it ahead of time.
- Know when to get help.
If you need to call someone, do it. If your friend has a reaction while you’re away from other people, you’ll either need to help them get back, or leave them while you get help. Again, your friend should be prepared for this contingency, but I know for myself I’m susceptible to delayed reactions, and delayed anaphylaxis is unpredictable. I may not even know what caused it.
- Know when to say “I’ve got it.”
The kindest thing a friend ever did for me was offer to unwrap a fortune cookie because she knew I couldn’t. ❤ ❤ ❤ So much love, man.
This may be intimidating for you, but you’ve got this. 🙂 And let me just say, I’m super proud of you for stepping up to be a friend to a person with food allergies. You don’t need to know exactly what to do – ask them. Show them you care about their well-being by simply asking, “What should I do? What should I be aware of?” Trust me, there is nothing more reassuring.
Peace out, food allergy warriors!!
Let’s chat. Do you have a friend or family member with severe allergies? Do you have friends in your life that have stepped up to be educated about your allergy?