Food allergies cause a lot of stress not only to the patients who suffer from them but also to their caregivers, families, extended families, and other members of their social circles. Whether you have food allergies or just know someone who does, it is important to understand the types of stress associated and best practices for coping.
1. Lifestyle Inconveniences
Social events revolve around food. When you suffer from food allergies, you have to think twice about parties or other social events that you or your food allergic child may be attending and be prepared for any food that may be served at the event. If you are the host of the event, you need to be aware of the health concerns of your guests and remember not to offer food to a child without first receiving permission from his or her parents.
The key to coping with these inconveniences is to communicate and plan in advance. If you are hosting an event, be pro-active to communicate with your guests about the food you will be serving and let them know what may be available to accommodate their dietary needs. If you have been invited to an event, call the host to find out what the plan is for food and decide in advance how you will prepare to handle your allergies at the event.
2. Social Pressure
Because there is no cookie cutter approach to food allergies and every patient’s sensitivities and symptoms are different, it’s often hard enough to accept your own treatment plan, let alone somebody else’s.
If you or your child has food allergies, be sure to work through the facts with your doctor about your specific diagnosis and treatment plan needs. Be sure to include in your plan specific times for retesting as recommended by your doctor so you can be aware of any changes that may occur with your condition. Arming yourself with the facts will give you and your child the confidence to enforce your treatment plan, even when others give you the social pressure to deviate. Try to remember how hard it was for you to believe your diagnosis at first and be forgiving of those who don’t understand your condition they way you do.
People with food allergies often feel that others view them as being too extreme or overreacting, often times because they may remember feeling this kind of denial when they were first diagnosed. If you know someone with food allergies, be sympathetic, trust their judgment and respect the diet and treatment plan they have chosen to follow. If possible, go out of your way to accommodate their needs and help them feel valued despite their condition.
The uncertainty of not knowing how or when your body will respond to any food can have a crippling effect. Questioning other’s ability to prepare your food free of cross-contamination, or even feeling the pressure of preparing a food for someone with a food allergy can create feelings of fear that have a crippling effect.
Knowing how to fight fear is key. Be pro-active to learn all you can about food allergies and focus on what you can control, rather than what you can’t. Studies show that those who develop positive coping skills for food allergies have better mental health overall. Find ways to celebrate life despite your condition and focus on the many health benefits you enjoy. Teach your kids how to have confidence in life despite their allergies and empower them to become positive contributors to society.