Interview: Social Affects of Food Allergies

Morgan from Utah shares with us what life is like for his son who is allergic to soy and apples. 

What type of food allergies (FA) or food sensitivities (FS) do you have?
Morgan: It is not myself but our nine year old son.   He is allergic to soy and apples.

Did you self-diagnose your son’s FA/FS or did you get a diagnosis from a doctor?
Morgan: We got a diagnosis through a doctor but had to have multiple tests done to find the source.

How does having a FA/FS affect his life?
Morgan: It has affected his life socially and in regards to food.  It has affected all of us really.   We used to read labels occasionally to be healthy, now we read them religiously for safety.  If something is unlabeled, he can’t eat it. We have had to give away foods that were unsafe in our cabinet.   For a child it is hard because most of the time he cannot eat the party food, the snacks at functions, soccer game snacks, the samples at the store, or even food at his friends’ homes. Mom ends up making a lot of substitutes at home.   We also  have to be careful about topical products containing the allergen.

When was the last time he had a food allergy reaction and how did it make him feel?
Morgan: The last time he had a serious attack was in December. However, a month ago he had a reaction because of apples, which cause milder reactions.

How often do you dine out versus eat at home with him? For example, how many meals per week/month do you eat out?
Morgan: We eat out maybe once or twice a month, sometimes only snacks or treats.

Do you feel nervous when you do eat out? What are your ‘go to’ dishes if you do dine out?
Morgan: Yes, because often servers don’t know the answers to our questions.   The dish depends on the restaurant, although we have been sticking to the few we know have allergen menus or eat the safe dishes we already know.  If we are somewhere with no information.  Salad, no dressing is safe.  Eggs if cooked in real butter.  Meat if unseasoned.  Plain pasta.  It definitely makes us nervous.

How do relatives, friends and/or servers at restaurants typically react when you bring up his allergy/sensitivity?
Morgan: Most people are nice when we are out.  Occasionally, service people will look bothered by all the questions, but we don’t have a choice. Some well meaning relatives will mention that just a tiny bit might be fine or that soon it will change.

What is something that would make living with FA easier that does not currently exist? Better Labeling Laws? More efficient ways to test?   Morgan:  Better labeling laws!!  For example, listing the source of the “gums” or “tocopheryls”.  Some doctors don’t seem to recognize the possibilities of false results, which we experienced.  Cheaper Epi pens would be great!

Do you have any advice for family members or friends of those newly diagnosed with FA?
Morgan: Don’t let it overwhelm you, especially grocery shopping.   You just need to find what you or your family member can eat one step at a time.  Find a forum of other people dealing with food allergies.  It is a great place to find ideas, information, and support.

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