What NOT to say to people with food allergies

food allergies

What NOT to say to people with food allergies

Navigating a food allergy is difficult. For anyone that doesn’t have one, you might not be familiar with the constant anxiety involved with checking every single ingredient in your food. The feeling that something might cause an allergic reaction. And the unending conversations where you have to explain your condition to people who don’t (or simply don’t want to) understand.

Unless you’re living with that constantly over your head, it’s hard to see how deeply it can affect a person. The last thing they need is someone making careless remarks that undermine their condition. And you might be contributing without even realising. So here are some phrases people with food allergies often hear – and how you can be a bit kinder with your words.

“Is it really that bad?”

Sometimes, people can see food allergies as something akin to food preferences. That any reaction can’t be that bad and that some foods are just worth it. But this downplays their condition. Even if it isn’t a life-threatening allergy (which it can be), it still takes a mental and physical toll on a person.

Instead, be more empathetic. Ask them how their allergy affects them. Hearing the struggle they go through will give you some perspective and show you that, yes, it really is that bad.

“Can’t you just eat something normal?”

Questions like this often get asked when the topic of dining out comes up. Not every restaurant will put the effort in to accommodate people with food allergies, but that doesn’t matter, right? They can just have the regular spaghetti bolognese and be fine. But that’s not how it works. And they can’t simply eat the vegan option either.

This type of question is rude because there is no “normal”. A person with allergies has every right to feel comfortable no matter where they go. So, as an alternative, ask for their restaurant recommendations. Where do they like? After all, it’s probably easier for you to adjust than them.

“I could never stop eating that!”

Okay, thanks for the input. While you might find the idea of a hypothetical life free from bread or cheese to be ghastly, that’s their actual reality. They’re living it, and they’re probably not happy either. Especially if it’s a condition that came later in life so they know what they’re missing out on.

And they’ll have heard it all before. There’s nothing worse than hearing the same joke over and over. Instead, be supportive. Don’t say something like this and make an effort to match their dietary needs. Eat their food. Make them an allergy-free version they can eat. Something to show you care.

Most of all, never accuse someone with a food allergy of complaining. They’re a challenge to work around and make life harder than it needs to be. No one would do that on purpose. So be more empathetic to people with allergies in your life and ask yourself if there’s anything you could be doing to help them.

If you have allergy concerns of your own, don’t feel like you have to suffer in silence. Get in touch with us to talk to an allergy specialist who can help you diagnose any unknown conditions. Simply reach us on 02031 433 449 or register as a new patient here.

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