1. They’re Not Voluntary
Nobody ever wakes up one morning and decides that it would be fun to become allergic to something.
Those of us who have allergies also can’t randomly decide to take a day off from them in order to make other people’s lives easier.
If you don’t have experience living with allergies, you might be chuckling and shaking your head right now. That’s okay. I’d find it a little hard to believe, too, if these things hadn’t either happened to me or to people I know who are also living with allergies so many times that we’ve lost count of them.
There are some folks in this world who genuinely seem to believe that allergies are a synonym for not liking certain foods or being picky.
I have no idea why they think that, but I’ve run into this attitude over and over again. Someday they might actually realize the differences between these things. Until then, I’ll keep reminding them that nobody chooses this medical condition.
2. Not All Allergies Are Severe, but Even the Mild Ones Suck
There are millions of people in this world whose allergies can and will kill them if they’re inadvertently exposed to the wrong stuff.
In this sense, I’m lucky. My allergies to milk, certain plants, cats, dogs, and many other furry creatures are mild in the sense that I’ve never been in danger of dying because of them.
This doesn’t mean that being exposed to them won’t make me feel absolutely horrible, though. I still cough and wheeze uncontrollably when I do something as simple as hug someone who owns a cat or sit in the same car where cats have previously spent some time.
When I spend time with people who own cats, I have to plan ahead to reduce my chances of having a reaction when I’m around them. This means that I can’t ride in their vehicles, enter their homes, hug them, or sit too close to them. It also requires me to take allergy medicine in advance, change my clothing as soon as I get home, and maybe even hop in the shower to rinse away any dander that might have clung to my hair or skin.
On the rare occasion when I accidentally eat or drink something that has milk in it, my entire mouth will become extremely itchy and my lips will start to swell up a little. It has been so long since this happened that I don’t know if my reaction to it would be worse if it happened again. Based on how scary my last experience was, I don’t intend to find out ever again if I can help it.
3. No, Alternative Medicine Won’t Cure Them
All of the herbs, vitamin supplements, positive thinking, and homeopathy in the world isn’t going to do a thing to change how my immune system overreacts to certain things.
While I appreciate the good intentions behind these kinds of suggestions, it really isn’t helpful to tell someone who has allergies that they’ll be cured if they think happy thoughts or take the right combination of supplements.
At best, you’re going to be telling them about a treatment that will do nothing to help them. At worst, you’ll be blaming them for something they didn’t choose and have absolutely no control over.
By all means, keep using alternative medicine if you enjoy it, but please don’t try to give us medical advice or tell us that we’ll be cured once we drink a special tea or take the right supplement.
That’s not how any of this works.
4. It’s Never Okay To Joke About Exposing Someone to Their Allergens
If you joke around about purposefully exposing me to things that will make me sick, I will lose trust in you. It’s as simple as that.
You wouldn’t tease someone about having diabetes or asthma, would you?
Now that I’ve typed that, I have the sneaking suspicion that folks who joke about feeding or exposing someone to something they’re allergic to probably do say similarly horrifying and dysfunctional things to people who have other health issues. Oh, how I hope I’m wrong about that.
The fact remains, though, that this is not an appropriate topic for a joke.
5. It’s Always Okay to Ask Questions
With that being said, it’s always okay to ask questions about what is or isn’t safe for someone to eat, touch, or be around. I’ve heard of people whose peanut allergies were so severe that they could have a reaction to smelling peanut butter.
It takes a lot more than that for me to react to my allergens, so that’s why it’s important to ask questions instead of making assumptions about how serious someone’s allergy might be.
I really appreciate it when people take the time to ask me about my allergies and listen carefully to my responses. It makes me feel like they take my safety seriously. That’s one of the biggest things someone can do to earn my trust, and it’s something I wish would happen more often.