Life StoryDec/Jan 2017 Issue

We’ve Got "Allergy Problems"

Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy & sensitivity dramas

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Illustration by evgeniya porechenskaya/shutterstock

Church Dinner

Dear Issues,

I have an issue with people who don’t realize—or don’t want to realize—the ramifications of eating gluten for people like me who have celiac disease. My church sponsors a dinner club, which I regularly attend. We were dining in the home of our eldest member when I inquired about the suspicious bread in her casserole. With obvious impatience, she replied, “It’s only a little,” like only a little gluten wasn’t going to be a problem for me. I didn’t eat her casserole and never went back to that dinner club. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t told her about my dietary problems. She just didn’t care. The other club members aren’t like this.

Signed,

Not Very Church-Like

Dear Not Very,

You’re right to take issue with someone who doesn’t seem to be considerate of those she’s feeding, especially when you’re in a club connected with your church. I only wish you hadn’t walked away from your dinner club, since it sounds like a lot of fun. Don’t get me wrong. You absolutely should have walked away from that poisonous casserole—but don’t throw out the club with the casserole.

It sounds like this member may be very set in her ways and isn’t open to change or constructive criticism. You will always find people like that in your life.

You say other club members aren’t like her. Whether you decide to employ the others as your advocates at future dinners is up to you. If you do, reach out and explain how you’ve been sad about missing the dinners and that you’d love to talk with the next host and explain your situation before the meet-up. If you don’t feel comfortable with this scenario, then remain quiet and plan to only attend the dinners at the home of friends who understand your dietary needs and are committed to accommodating your diet.

You should know that every time you educate someone about celiac disease and the importance of the gluten-free diet, you’re helping all of us. Spreading the word means spreading the understanding…and that makes the world a better place. So don’t hesitate to speak up.


Traveling with Allergies

Dear Issues,

Ever since my daughter was diagnosed with a host of food allergies (dairy, soy, eggs) I’ve worked really hard to create delicious, kid-friendly food for her at home and at school. I feel like I’ve got this! So much so, that when we travel, I make food ahead and bring it wherever we go. I want to make sure she’s never hungry and never in danger of eating something unsafe.

My problem is that between the limit of carry-ons (I need a cooler bag to keep everything together and to prevent things from getting mushed up) and the TSA not allowing more than 3 ounces of liquid through security (I make special dairy-free drinks for her), I feel like the whole airline industry is working against me.

Is there anything I can do to help the airlines understand that my daughter needs special food and drinks? It’s hard enough being away from my kitchen. Having limits on what I can bring on trips is so annoying!

Signed,

Frustrated Traveler

Dear Frustrated,

You don’t have to convince me that flying in the modern era of small, crowded seating areas and intense, sometimes humiliating, security is not ideal. It’s enough to make people break down and drive cross-country! Except apparently it isn’t, since every flight I take is completely packed.

But first, a big congrats on not only advocating for your daughter, but also working your butt off in the kitchen to feed her well. You are an amazing mama. Food allergies are no joke and the seriousness with which you handle them is commendable. Flying, however, is kind of a joke.

Other than working with an efficient packer (this is not my area of expertise, just ask my husband who uses all his strength to zip my suitcase) to make sure you check everything you can, there’s really no getting around the two-bag carry-on limit. I would suggest mailing a box of safe food ahead to your travel destination. Then carry on only what your daughter might need for 24 hours, rather than the entire trip. Additionally, go online and check out the grocery stores in the area you’re visiting. Make a quick grocery run when you get to town, thus limiting your food load in the air.

If you’re going to fly, you can’t ignore or avoid TSA rules. No matter how arbitrary or frustrating you think they are, they are rock solid. Even if you get on TSA’s precheck list, you still can’t haul beverages through the line.

I’m curious as to why you need to pack a dairy-free drink. After all, water is allergen-free and you can buy it bottled at the airport and also get it on the plane. If this dairy-free drink is a special treat, make it for her when you get to your destination. Again, either ship the ingredients ahead or make a trip to the grocery store upon your arrival.

As a mother myself, I know you want everything to be perfect for your kiddo. We can’t control the allergies but we can control the food (and drinks) we make for them. It makes us feel better to do what we can do, when so many things are beyond our reach.

As you hit prime traveling season over the holidays, remember this: You are doing enough. Your daughter is safe when she’s with you and that’s all that matters.

P.S. What the heck is in that special dairy-free drink?

 

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