Roughly 32 million Americans live with food allergies. I happen to be one of them. These allergies have plagued my existence for as long as I can remember, getting worse throughout middle school and then even worse when I started college. My allergies: there's quite a lot: dairy, gluten, corn, mango, sulfates, and recently peanuts. You can probably guess eating out is one of the hardest things I have to deal with.
Whenever my friends and I decide to go out to eat, the question is always "Well Charlotte, where can you eat?" My answer typically includes "Don't worry, I'll find something" because typically I will. With a menu, patience from my friends and a server I will always find some type of variation that won't close my throat.
Yes- some of my allergies result in anaphylaxis, meaning a lump starts to form under my tongue, my glands start to tight and it is hard to breathe. According to Food Allergy Research and education, "Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room."Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room." Thankfully, I have never had that experience, but I carry my epi-pen with me everywhere I go.
When I eat out, I have to ask the server questions like if the kitchen can cook something in olive oil instead of butter, can they make plain chicken, or remove certain products from dishes? The answer is typically yes, but it often comes with some annoyance. Believe me, I understand the serving industry is tough- people generally don't tip enough and you are on your feet all day. But living with allergies is not just your inconvenience. For me, it is often a life or death situation. It is not my intention to be an inconvenience for you, I am not trying to make your job difficult. I just don't want to be part of another statistic.
I have lived with food allergies my entire life, and unfortunately, I do not foresee an end to them. Doctors haven't been able to find a cure and it seems unlikely I will grow out of my allergies. The one thing that can be done- have a greater degree of sympathy for those living with allergies. Compared to some, my allergies are mild. One young girl I know can't be in the same room as peanuts. In fact, allergies are actually considered a disability. Please consider this the next time someone asks a question at a restaurant.