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Living with life-threatening allergiesLiving with life-threatening food allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts and pineapple has been a part of my life since I was born, so it isn't something I am constantly thinking about or that consumes me. But it's a topic th

Pacer Notes

GOLDMANLiving with life-threatening food allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts and pineapple has been a part of my life since I was born, so it isn’t something I am constantly thinking about or that consumes me. But it's a topic that seems to fascinate those whose daily routine does not include worrying about what they eat.

I generally get three types of responses when someone first hears of my allergies. The first is a simple “Wow, that's unfortunate,” and the responder usually leaves it at that. Maybe they will ask a question or two, but often they just take it as it is.

The second type of response is much more inquisitive. The initial reaction varies, although it tends to be similar to that of the first group of people. After that, I can generally expect five to 10 questions like, “Wait, so you can’t eat (fill in the blank)?” Surprisingly, this response is just as common in adults as in kids, and I am always happy to answer any questions. But it’s comical to see the bewilderment and shock on someone's face as they utter phrases such as, “Not even ice cream?!”

The third type of response is more common than you think. I can’t even tell you the number of times someone's first response has been, “Even pineapple?!” — as if the other foods could be brushed off easily, while pineapple was something one could simply not live without.

For me, the biggest impact of living with food allergies is the inability to eat those foods that I am allergic to, and the difficulties that come with eating at restaurants. This is the most disabling effect of having food allergies, yet it is something I have grown so accustomed to that it holds little to no sway over me.

Dairy is the most difficult to deal with, as it is found in a wide variety of foods. There are things a normal consumer would be surprised and maybe even concerned to learn contain dairy, such as: canned tuna, many makeup items, lime-flavored chips, certain bubble gums and even toothpaste. Also, when eating at a restaurant, it isn’t just the food to consider, but also the oils used in preparation, cross-contamination and more.

While I am unable to eat at most restaurants, there are a few that will make accommodations for me. While it is not my favorite thing to do, I will explain to the cooks that they need to use a clean cutting board, clean utensils and fresh gloves. However, I find it well worth it, because finding a new place where I can eat creates quite a remarkable feeling, since I have a selection of only a few places.

Yet, I would say that I seldom worrying about, say, eating the wrong foods or ordering the wrong dish. The real hardships, I have realized, come in the small things — the inevitable hives I get up my forearm just as basketball practice occurs after dinner, when kids have just eaten, or having to give up countless sodas, bags of chips and sandwiches because someone forgot or didn’t realize that I can’t share food or drinks. These are just a few of the many smaller things which, at this point in my life, create more of a disruption than the allergies themselves.

I would be lying if I said there weren’t even a few perks in having such severe food allergies. Being mindful of what you put in your body, whether it is forced upon you or by personal choice, is a good skill to have. It ensures a healthy body as well as a healthy lifestyle, which I am thankful for. Also, whether it be a product of my allergies or something innate, my mom is an amazing cook. I am known to always have delicious meals and snacks with me (even by the standards of those without allergies).

Overall, having life-threatening food allergies is something that has been a very large part of my life. However, never have I considered my food allergies to be one of my defining features.

Lakeridge High School senior Alex Goldman is one of two Pacer Notes columnists. Contact him at educationlakeoswegoreview.com.


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