I grew up with a peanut allergy in the 90s when it was much less common to be given an allergen menu in a restaurant and people didn’t understand intolerances and allergies like they do now. I’d often be asked ‘Is it just that you don’t like peanuts?’ to which I’d have to respond ‘No I will die if I eat them’. Due to the lack of understanding around my allergy I often felt a lot of anxiety as a child and upon reflection I feel that I had to grow up a lot faster than my peers. When I was a child I used to go to workshops for children with allergies and this made me feel more confident about how to approach certain situations and made me feel that I wasn’t the only one. At primary school I was asked to give a talk to each year group about allergies and how to administer EpiPen’s to raise awareness within the school. I enjoyed the sense of purpose this gave me and it almost felt like a badge of honour to have an allergy for those few days! I remember my best friend being my volunteer to have the trainer EpiPen ‘injected’ into her during the demonstration and she ended up with bruises for weeks after! As a child I spent a lot of time in the children’s hospital in Glasgow going for check-ups and ‘nut challenges’ (yes a real thing, unfortunately not fighting nuts in a superhero outfit) and I think this made me a lot more at easewith the healthcare world than most children, so it’s probably unsurprising that I now work in healthcare.
Once I went to secondary school and university, I was much less vocal about my allergy as I felt like it was something that instantly made me different – not something any teenager strives for! I can see now that this could be a really dangeroustime as you are really independent with your food choices but very unlikely to ask all the right questions for fear of standing out. As an adult, I am definitely much less anxious about my peanut allergy. I still get nervous about eating food on a buffet table that I can’t see the packaging for or going to a new country but I think it’s all about figuring out how you can comfortably managing these situations for you and not letting it hold you back.