There has been a great deal in the allergy press about bullying recently, far more so in the US than here in the UK. Elizabeth Goldenburg at OneSpot Allergy has written a couple of blog posts about this including:
Kids can be cruel, but this does take a rather nasty and dangerous turn when you hear of teenagers eat a peanut just to see what happens, or get beaten up and threatened with being force-fed their particular allergen.
This isn’t just a bit of fun or a joke – someone could die as the result of a misplaced bout of bullying.
There is a product in the US called Sunbutter which is a peanut free alternative to peanut butter. There is also research being done to create an allergen free peanut. Will these things help? When people can be allergic to such a diverse number of different foods it’s impossible to make the world a safe place for everyone, but perhaps we can eliminate problems from the most dangerous of allergies. How would you know though, by looking and smelling, which was the real peanut and which the allergen free one? I still feel avoidance is the only safe strategy.
Have you ever been bullied or discriminated against because of your allergies?
I asked myself this question and I thought, well, no. But it doesn’t have to be vicious and aggressive bullying. It seems to me that there is a far more quiet and silent way of discriminating and isolating those with food allergies.
- The child who is no longer invited to parties because his friend’s parents are terrified to cater for them.
- The couple who are no longer invited to dinner parties – who wants to cater for those fussy gluten free and allergic people with all their questions and demands?
- Go to any seminar, launch party, or dinner party and you have serious life threatening allergies you will probably not be safe eating, unless you’ve phoned earlier, checked there will be something, checked again, checked again…
- Those throw away comments, “Oh you’re the difficult one.!” or “Here comes the woman with all the allergies.” may seem like they’re funny at the time, but they’re not.
- The glazed looks in restaurants… “yes I’m sure that’s OK.” How many people eat stuff after a waitress has replied with such a glib and unhelpful response? How many people really, truly understand what’s involved in engineering a safe eating out experience?”
- The woman who is too frightened to eat out after many anaphylactic attacks.
- Having to cook every meal you eat yourself, from scratch, because you can’t eat processed food or ready meals – having a meal cooked for you is such a treat I can tell you.
You can’t tell someone has food allergies from looking at them so it’s not the same as racial discrimination but it doesn’t take long to find out someone has allergies. You can tell someone has eczema and asthma quite easily, if you see the puffer being used, or the signs of eczema on their skin. Do you think that person may not be looking after themselves? That they should see their doctor? Get some new medication? Stop scratching?
Allergies at school
Having allergies is especially visible at school where a child with allergies may have to sit separately to eat their lunch or bring in their own safe treats.
In any good school everyone should be aware someone has a life threatening allergy, it’s just as important as knowing a child has any other life threatening condition such as diabetes. Every child should be included, not excluded from activities. Allergies are not a choice, they’re a condition that is affecting more and more people every year.
Allergies in the workplace
What about in the workplace? Have you ever had to mop up spilt milk then scrub your hands and pray you don’t have a reaction? Ever sat next to someone munching peanuts and had to leave the room? What do you do when a colleague offers you a cup of tea? Do you accept? Do you trust that they will not get milk in your tea by stirring with the same spoon or using a dirty mug, or pouring milk into other mugs too close to yours? Can you expect your colleagues to be as vigilant as you are at home in the workplace? Or do you distance yourself and decline, making your own coffee when the kitchen is empty. Sounds kind of lonely doesn’t it?
Thanks to the Gluten Free Guerillas for sharing this article on the Forbes website. “Food Allergies in the Workplace are Not Always What They Seem”. It’s a very insightful piece about understanding your employees behaviour. Turning down lunch with the team, after work drinks and not joining in with the Friday night curry doesn’t necessarily mean they are not a team player or don’t want to join in. Ask them why, talk to them. Why don’t they eat the office biscuits or cake when it’s someone’s birthday? They might have a peanut or dairy allergy or be a coeliac.
I have had an anaphylactic attack after eating out with work colleagues. It was a surprise thing, sprung on us as a reward for working hard and I just tried to be careful and stuck to the salads. Not a good idea when the salads have pesto on them if you have a nut allergy. I was so ill, and my colleagues, not really understanding the danger I was in, left me in my room without calling 999. I didn’t call either. I just lay in a cold bath shivering with hives all over my body, sobbing and alone in a hotel bathroom, unable to speak with my throat closing up, my eyes and nose streaming. My inhaler not working.
The next day amazingly I was expected to work a full day having had no sleep, clearly having had problems in the night, my face was still swollen and puffy. I was still shaken and feeling dizzy. Did my boss ask me if I was OK? No. I was too scared to explain and appear pathetic or weak, so I suffered in silence and spent the next two days in bed ill.
So when I didn’t join the others for meals and when we organised seminars and I had my own food since I couldn’t eat the ordered in spread from wherever it came from, that was fine with me. I was quite happy bringing in my own food. I didn’t and still don’t want any special treatment, but I don’t want to be judged for my behaviour when it’s the only way I can guarantee my safety.
Working from home works a treat for me. I don’t have to worry about what anyone else is eating or leaving on the worktop. I am also very lucky to have many many kind friends and family who always go the extra mile to make sure I’m happy, have something to eat that’s safe, and don’t make me feel bad about checking stuff. You all know who you are – thank you!
Do you feel you get judged by others when they find out you have allergies? Are you discriminated against? or do you feel your child is unfairly treated or excluded at school? We still have a long way to go raise awarness that we just want to be treated with respect.
You might also be interested in some home remedies for allergies: http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/remedy/Allergies.html