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Stop Making Fun of Food Allergies

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I was on a shoot at a college once in the kinesiology department, which is the study of body movement. These students are learning about the human body and I would think they’d know a bit more about health and wellness than the average bear. Which is why it surprised me to hear them having a conversation about “kid allergies” and how “every kid is allergic to something now. Back in my day…”

I get it up to a point. I have two toddlers, and I hate that I can’t send uncrustables in their lunches. They don’t like other kinds of sandwiches and it means I have to get creative and spend more time doing the domestic labor of lunch-packing. But if I pack peanuts, I could kill a child, so I don’t complain about it, I just follow the rules.

I also hear a lot of complaining about the airplane situation. In super rare circumstances, people have nuts confiscated because someone on the plane is so allergic to nuts that even particles in the air could kill them. Again, I guess saving someone’s life is a big inconvenience to some people.

Gluten has become an easy target because a lot of people aren’t allergic, they’re just on a diet trying to better themselves. But people with celiac can get extremely sick if they eat gluten, and gluten is literally everywhere. People often think it’s OK to make fun of avoiding gluten without considering they might be mocking someone who could be hospitalized for consuming just a tiny amount.

At another production company, I worked with a guy who had a peanut allergy. Let’s call him Mike. He was really good friends with most of the people there. One day, someone came back from vacation with some fancy cookies from a famous bakery somewhere. The office was delighted, as offices with cookies often are. But Mike didn’t take one, because the box didn’t say if it was prepared in a nut-free facility and we couldn’t find info online. Do you know what all his buddies said?  “Aww, it’s probably fine! You should eat one and see!” They pestered him all day — it was suddenly very personal to everyone that Mike eat this maybe-toxic-to-him cookie. And eventually Mike said, “You’re right, I’m just being cautious, but I could probably eat one and be fine.”

Now I didn’t actually like Mike. I actively disliked him — but not enough to watch him have to stab himself with an epi-pen or possibly die. So I jumped in and said, “Mike, don’t eat the cookie. Like seriously. Don’t do it,” while giving some serious stink eye to his buddies. They eventually sort of let it go, but not before making several comments like “but we have Benadryl! And Mike has an epi-pen!”

Just for the record, you look like an asshole when you make light of allergies, because they are life or death and they are common. And if you say allergies are only for kids, you look worse because at that point you’re making fun of children with a life-threatening condition.

I’m sick of it. Could we just not?

Photo provided by contributor.

Originally published: August 6, 2019
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