How to Respond to a Person with Food Allergies


As I child, I did not have any allergies. I ate what I wanted without restrictions. Somehow in my early 30s, I developed food allergies. Many are within the common 8 and some are not so common at all. For instance, chicken. Yes. Chicken! After nearly perfecting my method, I can no longer eat air fryer wings. The egg of a chicken, I can tolerate, but once that baby hatches, I can no longer partake.

The body is such a mystery! Practically any food we eat can cause our immune systems to overreact and produce antibodies that will attack the allergen which results in coughing, sneezing, hives, dizziness, swollen throat or tongue, and other symptoms.

As someone who is new to the food allergy community, I am realizing the importance of spreading awareness about this health condition.

So let’s pretend that you are the host of a birthday party. Both my child and I are attending and bringing our allergies with us. How should you, as the host, and I as the guest navigate through this party? Here are a few things that you shouldn’t say and what can be said instead.

Don’t Say: Are you sure you have an allergy? Were you tested?Do Say: How can I help? Feel free to look at the food labels.

We are not asking about the ingredients used to annoy you or to even steal your recipe. We do not want to be difficult, the killjoy, or the one who seems overdramatic when it comes to food. But we do ask that you are respectful and that you do not joke about what you did or did not put into the food. This is serious and to many of us, it is a life or death situation. We are trying to stay alive here! (Was that too dramatic?)

Don’t Say: Oh, I only used a teaspoon of flour in the cookies. Do Say: You will not be able to eat the cookies, I used flour.

Whether it is a little or a lot, any amount can trigger the allergy which can range from a mild reaction to severe, depending on severity of the allergy. Please be mindful of each ingredient used in a recipe, especially when you are aware of someone’s allergies.

Don’t Say: I would not feel comfortable using that EpiPen.
Do Say: Do I need to be shown how to use the EpiPen, just in case?

My response would be no, but thank you for considering. As long as we stay away from certain foods, we should be fine. An EpiPen is usually for severe cases. The EpiPen is an injection that contains epinephrine, a chemical that opens up the airways in the lungs. An EpiPen only lasts for about 20 minutes, so it is still vital to receive further treatment at a hospital.

Again, we are not asking for you to label every food item with the possible allergens and/or prepare separate food items, but just a little empathy and compassion goes a long way. Many times I travel with backup snacks or I eat prior to the event. Most gatherings have a variety of foods, so sometimes I just eat what I can without complaint. 

The above are simply suggestions or things to consider when interacting with those who have food allergies. We appreciate in advance your thoughtfulness and consideration.


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