Share your food allergy story to help a student

A little while ago, I received a request from Heather S. asking the following:

Hey Paul,
I’m doing a presentation in my sociology class about the social impact and quality of life of food allergies on children, teens, and young adults. I was wondering if you could put on the website a place where people could talk about the impact FA have on them and/or their children? I’m also looking for how it impacts the family members and close friends of the FA individual.

When I asked for more details, she gave me her story to share:


I was diagnosed with allergies of all kinds and asthma at the age of five months.  My food allergies then consisted of peanuts, fish, melons of all kinds, green peas, and strawberries.  Not a large list, but enough that my parents were diligent.  We lived in Florida at the time, so the fish allergy was especially frightening.  I was able to eat at most restaurants.  I thought it was easy, but my parents did not.  They were constantly protecting me, worrying what was in the packaged food, and what was in the food another child brought into class.

Then around seven years old, I went into oral testing for food allergies.  The new allergist was trying to figure out what foods I was actually allergic to.  I had already been through the skin tests, and it was very painful.  I remember crying the entire time.  This was nothing compared to not eating certain foods for two weeks at a time.  I had to stop eating soy.  I hated it.  I couldn’t eat the Burger King my friends ate at school.  This was during the 1990s, and there were no appetizing soy free foods.  We cooked everything at home.  Then I had to stay away from citrus for two weeks.  I was surrounded by oranges, grapefruits, even tangerines, all in our backyard growing from trees.  It was hard.

I went through all of that without a complaint.  It was hard, but I knew it would help my health.  I knew all about my health.  And I knew what I looked like to others not in my immediate family.

To relatives, I was the weird child.  Constantly taking medication and on a pill to combat this reaction or this infection.  I couldn’t eat certain things.  Mom cooked all of our food during family gatherings, so I was for the most part safe.

To the school, I was a liability.  In elementary school, I was not allowed to carry my own inhaler.  I’d had it since I was small, so I knew how to use it.  Not carrying it was scary, and embarrassing.  Every time I needed it and before PE, I had to go to the principal’s office and take the two puffs.  The kids laughed at me.

Then there were summer camps.  I couldn’t go unless my mother came, like in Girl Scout camp.  She has an inhaler she has to take twice a day, and an emergency inhaler?  She can’t come.  She’s a liability.  She can’t eat certain foods or she’ll die?  She can’t come.  She’s a liability.  I eventually gave up on going to summer camp.

The one camp I could go to other than Girl Scouts, was at Boca Ciega.  It’s located just outside Orlando.  Children with various disabilities or chronic disorders can go and be themselves.  And from all over the country.  There’s Diabetes camp, Cancer camp, even AIDS camp.  Food allergies?  No problem.  There’s a variety of options for them to choose from at lunch.  Need an inhaler, nebulizer treatment, or any kind of pills?  No problem.  We bring them to the cabins every morning to administer.  Can’t stand heat without getting sick?  No problem.  We have air conditioned cabins and running water.  It’s an incredible experience every child with medical conditions should have.

In 2001, my family moved to Illinois.  The food allergy education in Central Illinois was incredibly lacking.  I went from having a team of experts making sure every week I was doing fine, to a pediatrician who just handed out medication.

In school, I did not tell the nurse I carried my own inhaler.  I wanted to carry it myself.  The embarrassment peaked during high school.  The school decided I had to sit at a peanut free table.  Away from my friends.  With people I did not know.  I eventually left the peanut free table to go sit with my friends.  The nurse also did not know much about food allergies.

After high school, I developed allergies to wheat, dairy, and a life threatening allergy to tomato.  My childhood food allergies were nothing compared to my new ones.  The other ones I could avoid completely when eating out.  These new ones changed my world, and the way I look at the food industry.

I can’t eat pizza.  I can’t go get burgers with friends.  I can’t go to that delicious new Thai place everyone’s talking about.  And I can’t go get tacos or a sub from Quiznos with my best friend.  Yes, I can cook at home.  I do that a lot.  I know exactly what goes into my food.  I have not had a reaction from when I cook at home.  No cross contamination even when my parents have fish or chili.  My food is cooked first, or some of the ground beef is set aside before mom puts any into the tomato sauce.  But when I do eat out on that rare occasion, I have the anxiety that the chef may cook my chicken on the same grill as the fish.  Or that the cut tomato will just be picked out of my salad.  Then when I get the food, I have to inspect it for any clue that they didn’t do what I told them to do.

When eating out, I would give the waiter my chef card, which would have all my food allergies.  I’ve gotten reactions such as laughing, calling me names, and condescending tones.  Then, when the waiter comes with my food, if the waiter gave me any of the above reactions to my card, there’s a 90% chance I go into a reaction and have to go to the hospital for most of the night.  Sometimes it’s innocent ignorance.  Other times, it’s stubbornness and them not taking my condition seriously.

I was at a restaurant last night.  I had so many good experiences at this place.  Last night irked me.  I was with my family.  Before, I’d been allowed a freshly made, dairy free pesto sauce on my gluten free pasta.  Last night, I would point out a dish, and the guy would say ‘That has dairy’ or ‘That has tomato’.  Well, yes I know it has that, but the times before, the chef had talked about what he wanted to do to make it safe.  I had to ask this time, not have it suggested.  Then, when my food came out, it had some oil on it and no broccoli, like the menu had said.  And I was promised gluten free rolls.  They never came.  This was a manager, not a chef, and I was treated like a waste of time, not like a paying customer.  I don’t know if I want to go back.

I’m writing this in response to a presentation I have been assigned for my sociology class.  The presentation is on the quality of life for individuals with food allergies.  I would like to know the impact your food allergies have had on you and/or your child.  How do food allergies impact going out to eat, going to birthday parties, having lunch at school, etc.  I am looking for how food allergies impact both the individual, as well as family members.



So there you have it – Heather’s story.  Now she’d like to hear some of your stories that will help her expand awareness.  I’m hoping she’ll share the presentation with us when it’s completed too!

PLEASE CLICK COMMENTS OR REPLY BELOW TO ADD YOUR STORY!  If you would rather send it privately to Heather, feel free to pass it through AllergyEats at and we will keep it confidential.  I look forward to reading all of your stories and I knew Heather is very appreciative for the support!

After you’ve done that, if you’ve dined out recently, please remember to rate your experience on our core site at  Rating a restaurant takes just a minute, but each new one increases the value of AllergyEats for our entire food allergy and intolerance community!



    I don’t think I can even stretch to fit in the “young adult” category any more, but growing up I was ahead of the food allergy curve. I luckily only have a shellfish allergy, and when I read some other stories online, mine can seem generally easy to avoid. I certainly ran into a lot of “there’s no such thing”, “just a little won’t hurt” and “oh just pick it off” over the years. At least now, there seems to be a (small but growing) general awareness of food allergies.

    If you’d like my take on it, you can read a background from my blog here… A little background on my shellfish allergy before I write my next rant of a blog…

    If you want a humorous visual, try something like this: My Food Allergy Responses Graph

    Good luck gathering info, it was wise of you to reach out to Paul & Allergy Eats! He’s got a wide audience and you should be able to get some great feedback.

    Will you be able to put the presentation online when it’s done? Spreading the word goes a long way these days.

    Sophia Lyons

    Okay, my story isn’t that tragic, but I would like to tell ya.

    I was diagnosed at 2 years, after many reactions, due to a love of Chinese food.
    After the skin testing, I went to Florida for Thanksgiving. My grandmother had cooked with peanut oil for years. She apparently didn’t get the memo. I had my first “diagnosed” reaction 10 days after I was diagnosed. I spent three days in the hospital.

    From then on, all through m

    Mandy's Pizza

    I hope that this might help from a parent/business perspective.

    Our young son was diagnosed with severe food allergies and while this was okay, we never knew how it would impact our life.

    As you can see we own pizzerias and one evening when our son was only 7 I brought home a steak salad for him, and pizza for the rest of us. I laid the food on the island and when I turned around I saw him opening the pizza box. As you can imagine I quickly said, “Buddy, you know you can’t touch that!” He simply replied, “I know daddy, I just wanted to smell it.” This broke our heart…pizza is what pays our bills.

    For this reason I started to see how the #1 food in America affected our sons life. Everything from birthday parties to sleep-overs included pizza. However, for our son events such as those only included a ham sandwich on gross allergen-free bread and I am sure some feelings of sadness since he was not “part of the crowd”.

    Because of our son, and some pushes from my wife, I set out on a mission to create a product that would not only make him happy, but others as well. Now some 3 years later we are greatful for that sad comment made by our son Brandon since we now are the only known pizzeria to offer an allergen-free pizza that WE created and HE approved.

    The coolest part of all this is when a child CAN have a pizza party at home, or even at school. But when this same kid sends you and hand drawn picture of thanks…that shows us we did good for more than just our son and THIS is why we continue to do so — for the smiles and thanks.

    So, when you write your report, remember that it is tough for those with food allergies but there are people out there that DO CARE and only understand how to make things better since we LIVE IT.

    Good Luck.
    Father of a food allergic 10 year old
    Owner of a pizzeria


    In summer of 2009 I began losing weight like at rapid amounts, I was tired all the time (we’re talking 12-14 hours of sleep a night with 2-4 hour naps a day all while working full time) and nearly every time I did eat I was either in crippling pain or had to go to the bathroom to throw up or do my business. This went on for around two weeks before I decided to go to the doctor. At first she told me I had gastroenteritis and it would go away with some antibiotics but in the mean time to eat an extremely bland diet: first with broth and jello and then moving to plain pieces of toast and so forth. I did not get better and in fact I got worse. I went to see a gastroenterologist because the pain was so frequent and so tremendous that I was essentially afraid to eat. He performed blood work and a colonoscopy only to come up with the conclusion that I ‘needed more fiber’. I was extremely jaded and disappointed and my misery grew as my symptoms continued. So I began doing my own research and discovered what gluten was and what food sensitivities, intolerance and allergies were. I began eating gluten free in the summer/fall of 2010. Nearly all of my symptoms cleared up and my quality of life was greatly improved. I wanted to get tested for Celiac Disease but my doctor said in order to have an accurate reading I needed to have certain levels of gluten in my body of which I had none at the time. I refused to make myself sick just to obtain a diagnosis. I have been living gluten free ever since. Winter of 2011 I began seeing a nutritionist who gave me this amazing blood test that diagnosed all of my other food sensitivities and intolerance. This was after I had seen an allergist and he maintained that I had no allergies after doing the ‘scratch test’. Since seeing that wonderful nutritionist I have been living a much more quality life in a mostly symptom free manner. There are so many wonderful people and resources out there these days in which I am grateful for. Some days it can be challenging to eat in a way which seems foreign to most Americans but my number one priority is my health and wellness. Thank you for letting me share my story!


    I’m writing this as the mother of a 24 year old son, who was born severely allergic to dairy products. At first, we, and various doctors thought he would out grow it. We also thought it sounded like a fairly easy thing to deal with- just don’t eat cheese or butter and stay clear of milk. But we were wrong on both counts. As anyone with a food allergy finds out, it’s much more complicated than that, with allergens lurking in places you’ve never suspected. By necessity, our family and close friends have become experts in reading labels and quizzing restaurant staff. But in spite of our best efforts, eating out has resulted in more emergency department visits than I can count. Sometimes it’s because of lack of knowledge and training, sometimes because of cross contamination, and sometimes because of changing ingredients that have formerly been safe. It’s been a frustrating road for all of us, especially my son. I don’t think I can over state how having a food allergy restricts your world. As a child, it means always bringing your own food to the party and having your parents supervise every bite you take. As a young adult on your own, eating out and traveling become leaps of faith, where your well being rests in the hands of strangers.

    On the plus side, there are way more dairy (and other) substitutes than there were when we started out. Now it’s no problem to find all kinds of soy, rice and almond products. And, because the number of people with food allergies is growing, so is the work being done to perfect
    desensitization. There’s good reason to be optimistic about that. Last but not least, there’s the pleasure of cooking and eating at home. Almost any ingredient you can think of is easily available at your supermarket these days. You control what you eat and how you eat it. There’s nothing healthier than that for anyone.

    Kim Kays

    Both of my children have food allergies, a 10 yr. old girl (peanuts & tree nuts) and a 6 yr. old boy (eggs). Our families nor friends understand how life limiting food allergies are, nor understand how hurtful it is to us all when the children are “left out” or not thought of when planning celebrations. My son is very easy going and being allergic doesn’t really define him, yes he complains why he can’t have the same cake & cookies at birthday parties as everyone else but as long as he has a treat he really doesn’t dwell on it. On the other hand, food allergies have greatly affected my daughter. She is currently seeing a therapist and a nutritionist as she has severe anxiety about everything she eats which of course has affected the entire family as every meal is tense. She often doesn’t tell me of birthday invitations because she is worried about the food there and about friend’s making fun of her. She is a very smart, funny, and beautiful girl until food comes into play which of course is 3 times a day and around any type of celebration. We eat most meals at home or take safe food to every event. We can’t go on vacation without having our own kitchen. Although food companies have come a long way in labeling ingredients and the possibility of cross contamination, there is still a long way to go in understanding of food allergies in schools and restaurants.


    As an Italian American I have a love for culture, flavor, and food. Although I haven’t always had the easiest time with food I am finally starting to find a way to deal with my stomach issues without sacrificing flavor or creativity. Although I am a vegetarian and have been for many years now, I do not claim to be a perfect vegetarian or have a desire to discuss my reasons for being one. At this point in my life I am just trying to make choices with my food that make me feel good.

    As a child I was always sick, I had terrible stomach aches and the doctors diagnosed me with an allergy to dairy. At a very young age I cut dairy completely out of diet and although I still always had slight stomach aches I began to feel a little bit better.Unfortunately when I was in college I found out that I had bleeding ulcers in my stomach and that to the culprit was an allergy to wheat. I got tested for celiac disease which came back negative but my doctor said that even though I didn’t have celiac disease, I definitely had an allergy to wheat and should remove all wheat products from my diet. The doctor also informed me that I had an intolerance to foods high in fat and sugar which would explain my issues dealing with things such as nuts, peanut butter, fried food, and baked goods.

    I am hoping that by writing about my tips of dealing with food intolerance’s, and posting great recipes that I have found or created, that I can begin to help others who struggle with similar issues as me. My hope is that I can help people to live more comfortable lives with food, and hopefully not have to struggle in pain for as long as I did.


    I agree with Anne. We have been dealing with milk allergy for 17 years. People still ask if he will out grow it. As a baby and infant, it was pretty easy, bringing food everywhere. For school age, we provided snacks to be kept in class and I became very good at carting food around. It’s very different now that he is a teenager. Out driving around and being on his own. He usually eats before he goes anywhere. At times, he has waited to eat. Dang! He can’t even take a girl out for dinner without excessive planning!! It was amazing to me where milk shows up, in gum, hot dogs, and even medicines. Having just returned from vacation, I still find it frustrating that tourist attractions and areas and restaurants still don’t get this!!! We now have a new worry on the horizon sending him off to college.

    I do agree that it has gotten better with soy and other products available, but there is still along way to go!


    We’re in many ways new to the food allergy dilemma, but in some ways, we’re not. I have a son with ADHD, and since I had it as a child and was never on medications for it, I wanted to try to do the same for my son, who is 7. When I was little, I remember thinking my dad was nuts. He told me food dyes and high fructose corn syrup affected me, and I thought he was out of his mind. As a parent, I’m totally eating my words daily. When I was a baby, I was on soy formula, and as a child, soy milk. As an adult, I chose to eat dairy things and deal with the stomach problems that followed, just because I was tired of telling people I couldn’t have things. Ice cream? Sure I’ll just take some Pepto Bismol. Then, after having my son, I realized he had the same problem with milk as me. So, we started avoiding it, but I was never as diligent as I should have been, I thought slip ups could be handled. Then he started school, and I saw that me being exhausted every night from his behavior wasn’t me being a bad mother, he was SO wild and could hardly focus on anything. We started talking to family and realizing that so many people in our family have a gluten intolerance, as well as my dairy issues. So, we cut out gluten and dairy and saw improvement, but not as much as we hoped. Still, I saw a small glimmer in knowing that he could be helped without meds. I started noticing patterns and realizing that every time he had a significant amount of corn in his food, the behavior started changing within a half hour. It was time to cut corn out of his diet. To anyone who doesn’t understand the extent of a corn allergy or intolerance, its mind boggling. Corn is in your yogurt, its in most of your lunch meat, its in your peanut butter, and its in iodized salt and powdered sugar. So, anything containing salt that doesn’t say “sea salt” is a red flag. There are over 100 names for corn in ingredient lists, and I feel like people stare at me when I go to the store, read labels, and have my trusty little guide for all of the ingredient names I need to be on alert for. I feel so bad for my son, because I can’t let him go to a birthday party and just enjoy it with all the other kids, I have to take food, and I have to make him cupcakes or something instead of letting him eat what the other kids are having. We don’t feel safe eating out, ordering in, or anything, because while most restaurants have an allergen list on their website or on site, corn isn’t a major allergen. It doesn’t have to be included. My son takes all of this in stride for the most part, and he understands his need to follow the diet, but we see moments of him feeling left out. I send in treats for his teacher to keep on hand for when someone brings in a birthday treat, and he seems to be ok with it, but I minded, so I’m sure it bothers him to some extent. My biggest issue is that my sons reactions aren’t severe, and while that’s good news for him and us, it makes people so much less understanding. Most of his reactions are behavioral, and they affect his ability to focus or be in control of his actions. His teacher thinks I’m crazy, my husband did too, at first. I’ve been very lucky as far as family, because my extended family consists of naturopaths and several people with food intolerances, even a few others with the same corn issue. Also, a few months after we started this, my parents both began a gluten free diet and saw a difference in themselves, so making exceptions for their grandson is now second nature to them. I have found that I have come to dread holiday and birthday parties in a way that no one other than people with food allergies can understand. My mother in law tries to buy special things for my son, but never oks it before she brings it over, and 9 times out of 10, what she brings isn’t safe. She buys something that is gluten free, but not dairy free, or it contains corn, and I have to be the bad guy and tell her its not something he can have. My husband thinks we should just not tell people and say thank you, and I feel like they should know not to spend their money on the same thing again, if we can’t even use it for him. My mom will buy something that says its “allergy free” and I have to tell her its not something he can have, because corn isn’t considered one of the top 10 allergens, and its in there. My brothers/sisters-in law don’t think its really a food intolerance and I’m just wasting my time, so there’s no concern over what my son can have, and I have to prepare an entire meal and dessert for him every time we have a get together. We recently had a party for my father-in-law that we had to help pay for, and it was hard not to be salty when we were asked to pay for part of it, but nothing there was safe for my son, so I had to bring everything for him. Honestly, I don’t expect people to make accommodations, but its irritating that I don’t even get a courtesy “hey what can we have for him” call or email. While I have some food intolerances, my son is the major cause for change in my household, and I can tell you that it definitely has had an effect on my relationship with my husband at times. In the beginning, he kind of rolled his eyes at me and thought it was something I just needed to get out of my system before putting him on medication. Then he went through a phase where he felt he shouldn’t be punished for my son’s diet issues and my son was finding ways to get into things he was supposed to be avoiding. I tried over and over again to explain that I know how terrible I feel after eating ice cream, but there are still so many times where I can’t avoid it, so how can we expect a 7 year old to handle that? It finally sunk in, but its definitely affected how our entire family eats.

    Amanda W.

    My 4 year old daughter is allergic to peanuts. We found out on the day after her 2nd birthday when I gave her a pbj sandwich for the first time and 3 hours later she was having trouble breathing (delayed reaction). It was hard at first trying to get her preschool to change the way they did things but I was persistent and now nothing at preschool goes into her mouth without my say so. They ask me about everything. I think the hardest part for us is that my older daughter (7 years) is not allergic and so she has to eat the same thing her sister eats. This usually is not a problem until we are invited to a party or out to dinner I pack my 4 year old a “picnic lunch/dinner” and we take it to the restaurant. My 4 year old is okay with this but my 7 year old wants to eat at the restaurant. Sometimes I let her sometimes I make her eat what her sister has. Mind you we rarely go to restaurants the whole family can eat at so this is not an all the time thing. Most restaurants will let us bring our own food in..all we have to do is mention food allergy and they are more than happy we brought their own food. The other problem I have is that other parents whose children have the same allergies are not as vigilant as I am. They let their children have the cookie made in the same factory where peanuts are processed or they take risks I am not willing to take which has some parents questioning why am I so strict! When their are birthday parties at preschool I have some cupcakes in the freezer that I pull out that I have frozen in individual ziploc bags and always have a stock of icing on hand for such an occasion. We did pull up to a birthday party a couple of months ago and the place was packed. I knew there was no way I would be able to watch my daughter sufficiently so we left and I texted the birthday girl’s parents that we could not come in. Both of my girls cried all the way home. More recently I was in a bible study at a Church I don’t normally attend but they assured me that all snacks would be check and a no nut policy would be in place. Even after repeated e-mails and warnings to the parents someone still packed a pbj for their children. This is after we had been there several months and these children sat down next to my children to eat. Luckily, since I do homeschool, my oldest was there and warned my younger daughter to move to another table. Then the workers still let the children eat the sandwich after they had been warned and never told me the incident occurred. My oldest daughter told me about it when we got home and I called the lady in charge, there were many apologies but we will not be back. It is like someone just told me I aimed a gun at your daughter and pulled the trigger and the bullet missed her by an arm’s length. The people at the bible study wanted to talk it out and I wasn’t rude but I could not go back to the study after that happened. I’ve been to the emergency room with my daughter before because she broke out in some hives and her voice became raspy and the emergency room doctor acted like I was crazy for bringing her in for a “rash.” It is scary when medical personnel don’t even “get” it. So it has been a bumpy road for us but we are learning to adapt to our new normal.
    Next month we are going to Disney for the first time and I have heard many good things about how they treat people with food allergies so I am very excited to experience this Disney magic. It will be nice to go to the restaurant and we all get to eat there.

    Tarah Jakubiak

    For as long as I can remember I have been allergic to eggs, nuts, mushrooms, and shellfish. As a child I had a few more allergies, like chocolate, mint and strawberries. Now in my mid thirties, I have outgrown the chocolate, mint and strawberries but I grew into new ones. I now have to add corn, soy, garlic, pork, chicken,sesame, most fruits, and celery to my list of allergens. As a child, my sister and I were the only ones in our school that had allergies. As an adult, of my age, it appears there are not many that have this many allergies. However, it does seem like more and more kids today have this many allergies. When I hear a child list off their allergies, my heart breaks for them. I wish they did not have to go through this. Then I remind myself, that I went through it and I am still going through it. I would not wish this upon anyone, however I would not change it either. For whatever reason this is my path, I have come familiar with it and I know the direction I am heading in. My allergies have given me the insight to all those who suffer with an illness and given me the strength to persevere. It is also my motivation behind my business, Allergic Traveler. My parents taught me from an early age that it is important to see the world and how they live. I have never not traveled because of my allergies and I hope to help others see the world as well.


    Thank you everyone! You guys really helped. I hope Paul puts the presentation up on the website soon!


    thank you for the post. Also enjoyed the comments . I’m allergic to strawberries only.


    That is terrible. I am really sorry to know that you are treated like that. I know that allergy especially for foods need to be really careful. Have you tried to look for other options in treating your allergies? There are natural ways in treating allergies. Food allergy diet is one of the programs that we have. Dr. Sundardas is one of the naturopathy expert that would like to help you. We hope that you have time to visit our website at or email us enquiries@sundardasnaturopathy.

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