Allergy Awareness

24 11 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a “close” call today at work.  Living with allergies is always a challenge, especially this time of year when special treats and snacks start making their way to the office.  I have lived with my allergies long before it was a well known or super common thing.  I was even told once when I was 15 at an extracurricular function and started having anaphylactic-like symptoms after accidentally ingesting coconut that they would not call an ambulance for me and I would need to call my mother (who was a 25 minute drive away) to come pick me up (she made it in less than 15!).  Over the years, I have learned, the hard and stupid way I might add, what types of things to avoid to ensure I am safe.  Baked goods are always a huge and resounding NO unless they were manufactured in a peanut/nut free factory OR they were made by someone who can list every ingredient in the item and can guarantee me no contamination with allergens.  Usually, I don’t even bother to ask and just avoid it.  This always helps save a few extra pounds at this time of the year!

For that reason, I will often not announce or make too big a deal of my allergies.  When I started this job 13 months ago, I discreetly told people on a one-on-one basis and told them I carry an epipen.  Luckily, in our workplace, epinephrine is never too far away, so even without an epipen, I would have lots of trained help to save my life!   Mostly everyone that I know well and work with often go out of their way to ensure I am not in harm’s way.  A lot will always ask if it is ok if they eat a certain product around me and will ensure good handwashing and surface wiping immediately after.  I am extremely thankful for this.

That why I was so shocked today.  I was walking past the lunch room and something caught my eye.  A package of yucky looking cookies and two giant ziploc bag of peanuts and nuts!!!  In a tiny lunch room (seats 8-10)….  I pretty much freaked out.  Clearly I didn’t eat lunch in there.  Even though my allergy is MOSTLY through ingestion (severe anaphylaxis), I do get reactions from contact (hives) and being it was in the lunch room… the last thing I wanted to do was touch a contaminated surface and touch my food.  Honestly, I get an itchy throat just by looking at a peanut after all of my bad experiences and close calls.

I am so lucky to work with such an amazing group of people because several people approached me to let me know there were huge bags of nuts in there.  As well, somebody put the nuts away and wiped down all the surfaces and even got the floor vaccumed (peanut shells on the floor).  Subsequently an email was sent to the whole building to let them know that someone in the building does have a severe allergy and to please be more cautious when wanting to share next time.

I am by no means advocating for a peanut/nut free workplace (although if it did happen, I would be ok with that too!), but I do believe in common sense at the workplace and in respect.  In our building, there are a lot of newer staff right now and a lot of casual, seasonal workers.  With nuts/peanuts being such a common allergy, I just don’t understand why anyone would thing it is ok to slam down a massive bag of peanuts/nuts in the smaller lunchroom.  Am I crazy for thinking this is simply very unthoughtful?  Am I overreacting?

On a related note, my husband’s Christmas party is this weekend and just about every dish, including the turkey, has peanuts or tree nuts in it.  This is super annoying to me.  A month ago my husband approached the person who was planning the Christmas party to check the menu and told them about my allergies and the person organizing it pretty much said that it was too bad because the menu was not changing.  You cannot tell me that they couldn’t change the menu a full month out from the event!  Even more frustrating is that my husband is at the top end of management at this level, so if he is not able to get someone to change it, I guess nobody will!  So already I am obviously not eating anything for the dinner.  As someone who loves food, it is very sad and disappointing that I cannot eat at the Christmas party!  In other years there have been nuts in the salads or questionable things in the salad dressings, but I have been able to eat other things at least.  This year, if I go at all, I will bring my own food.  I just need to figure out what that will be…. Once again, for myself I am not advocating for a totally peanut/nut free meal…. but at least take away the chestnut dressing so I can enjoy some turkey!!!  As it is, when more than 50% of what is served will have allergens in it, the risk is far too high for me and it is better to stay away.  Once again, am I totally overreacting with this?

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6 responses

24 11 2012
keith

Nut allergy is a bummer. But you did note that there are a lot of new staff there. Most people don’t think of it at all, unless they have someone in their families with a nut allergy, or know someone that does. Numbers vary, but estimates are that fewer than 1% of the population has a nut allergy. I haven’t much doubt the people that brought them in thought they were being generous, and were shocked when told. Unless the lunch room has a prominent sign, or it’s part of the work place orientation.

I can’t remember the first time I heard the words “peanut allergy” and “potential death” in the same sentence, but I do know I’d been an adult for a long time. When I was going to school (back when the rocks were still soft), there was one kid in the entire school that was allergic, to pollen or something like it, we called it hay fever, and he was liberally supplied with kleenex at that time of year. Probably half the school had peanut butter sandwiches on any random day. It does seem that allergies are getting more common, and have a more severe impact.

All that said, the person organizing the Xmas party is being a jerk. These days, the people in that business have to ask about food issues, just out of self defense. Nobody wants a medical emergency at their event. At least some event organizers are on the ball enough to gather info about all the allergies, and prepare an alternate meal that is common to all the allergic people.

And now, bonus for you, a rant comment. Preferences. All of us have dietary preferences. For example, I will not willingly eat Brussels Sprouts, but I wouldn’t dream of inflicting my host with that info. If they happen to be on the menu, I move on to the next dish, or give them to my wife if the plate comes pre-served. Guests can always say no thank you to an offered dish, and a host needs to understand that not every guest will like all dishes. But the guests who get up in other people’s faces about having an “allergy” when what they really have is a food “preference” coupled with a dickish attitude really piss me off. They make life much more complicated for you, the genuine and severe allergy sufferer by minimizing the meaning of the word allergy.

24 11 2012
linagonzo

Hi! I’m brand new to wordpress and don’t even have a post yet. However, your blog is very similar to what mine will be. My son is anaphylactically allergic to sunflower seeds. He and I don’t get much respect for his condition, which is why I decided to write a blog about it. I am new to the food allergy world, and I have been extremely shocked at how disrespectful people can be. They are placing my son’s life in jeopardy and I believe there are nicer ways to address these situations. Hopefully others will be able to come forward and post their views, opinions, and suggestions. No, you are not overreacting. Hope to be friends with you on wordpress. Now if only I can find that friend button to press.

I suddenly realize I am writing as in your comment space.

28 11 2012
linagonzo

I’m a little more stable on wordpress now. My first post is available. I have several other posts cued for posting. I plan to eventually reblog your post and address the issues in its own post. I have that many ideas about it. Thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s amazing how disrespectful and ignorant people can be. This type of behavior inspired me to start a blog and seek answers. I’ll keep in touch.

29 11 2012
luckytiff

AWesome! Thanks for the kind words.

29 11 2012
linagonzo
1 12 2012
Nikki

I also have allergies- LOTS of them- to the point that I went to a raw food diet. However none of my allergies are anaphylactic shock serious. I know how insane it is to navigate this world with social events, etc and I have just found that I either plan on bringing a dish I can eat, such as to a potluck, a big event I ask for a salad but since that is even an iffy meal, I always eat before I go and/or pack my own food. It has just become habit now for me, that I don’t even think about it. If I were in as high a risk as you, I’d always bring my own food. As for people in the workplace and day cares- many are just ignorant and insensitive. Until they have such a huge risk on their plates, they will never understand. Kudos for standing up and making others aware. Good Luck!
Nikki from RawGreenAndSimple.com

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