Teaching Non-Understanding Adults About Your Child’s Food Allergy

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Food Sensitivities are modern society’s sleeping giant. Everyone has a Food Sensitivity towards something. It’s the nature of our relationship with food. Nature isn’t perfect, and something will always be “off”, somewhere. The degree to which we are sensitive determines the label we get from the doctor. Food Sensitivity is a slight discomfort and, in the lighter forms, determines which foods we like and which foods we don’t like. In the stronger forms, it is called a Food Allergy and has very specific reactions.

Society frowns upon Food Sensitivities because we often think the person is just being rude. Without a stronger condition and a doctor’s diagnosis, the person has little recourse but to agree and “eat everything on his plate”. This bullying attitude translates down the spectrum of sensitivity. For example, when an Food Allergy person asks that a meal be prepared without a certain Allergen, people look at this person as if there is something wrong with them. No one wants to feel “abnormal”. For that matter, if one digs deep enough, one can find an “abnormality” in everyone. It is this perception that forces Food Sensitivities to become a sleeping giant. It is a cultural stigma that results in oppression. People need to find support on how to handle sticky social situations and non-understanding adults.

The following example is derived from my experiences with my son’s Sunflower Allergy. One Sunflower Seed can easily kill him in a matter of minutes. One Sunflower Seed has the same effect on my son as a fast acting and deadly poison has on everyone else.

Sunflower seed. Whoe seed (right) and just the...

Sunflower seed. Whoe seed (right) and just the kernel with the shell removed (left) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One descriptive method to teach non-understanding people the complications of eating the wrong food is the Cyanide example. Most people are familiar with Cyanide and its effects. A Cyanide pill is similar in size and shape to a Sunflower Seed. Eating a Cyanide pill will kill a person in a matter of minutes. Eating a Sunflower Seed (Allergen) can kill my son in a matter of minutes. A light dusting of Cyanide powder will greatly sicken a person. A food that is made with Sunflower Oil will cause my son to suffer a Migraine-level headache and serious stomach ache. Now, imagine that someone sprinkled Cyanide powder in the food and placed Cyanide pills throughout the grocery store, restaurant, school, and other regular hangout places. Sound ridiculous? This is the type of minefield a Food Allergy sufferer has to navigate every day of their lives. This person learns where most of the bombs are located either thru strict diligence, or thru hard lessons. It’s a very hard life that often keeps a person homebound, eating food that has been made from scratch. 

Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now let’s look at the Cyanide pill concept from another angle. What if a child brought a bag of Cyanide pills to a neighborhood park? The adults would tell the child to drop the bag, the police would be called, the park would be shut down till all Cyanide pills were found, and the story would be extensively covered by the media. This is the same situation a Food Allergy Mom faces every day. However, a Food Allergy Mom does not have the luxury to call the police, yet the physical consequences of an Allergen are the same as Cyanide. We get to grin and bear it and hope our teeth are not ground down too much. However, one Sunflower Seed creates the same effect on my son as a Cyanide pill has on everyone else.

2 * 500g Sodium cyanide

2 * 500g Sodium cyanide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This explanation usually conveys the severity of the situation to a non-Food Allergy adult. Yes, the Cyanide story is shocking, and, yes, the real life Allergic reaction is shocking as well. Most adults don’t realize there are serious consequences to eating an Allergen. The Cyanide example can clarify the minefields a Food Allergy person has to navigate every day. A full understanding can help communicate and widen a person’s perspective. It also creates empathy for an extremely serious situation that can be easily neutralized thru informed and knowledgeable food choices.

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