Oftentimes food allergies can be genetic and run in the family. However, many people grow up or start families with no members having an allergy. This can be challenging and a major adjustment for all members of the household when one is diagnosed with a food allergy. While this may be the case, it is important to communicate as a family and work together to make everyone’s experience with food as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Undoubtedly, safety is always the first priority when it comes to food allergies. As I am the only member of my family with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that is cured only through a gluten-free diet, my family and I have had to work together to create a gluten-free-friendly household. Cross-contamination is always a fear for those struggling with allergies, so my family discussed ways to lessen the possibility of cross contamination and make me feel more comfortable. My mom bought a new toaster and new pots and pans designated to gluten-free foods only. This made me much more at ease knowing that no foods with gluten would touch my food and that there was less of a chance that something could trigger my gluten allergy in my own house. While we did not remove all products containing gluten in the house, these adjustments were the best way to ensure my safety. Talking to my family members about how to make me more comfortable was important as we were open to new ideas and still to this day work together towards making my allergy less of a burden on myself and my family members.
Along with safety, a significant part of food is enjoying what you eat! Sometimes it is hard to be the only one not eating a food that the rest of your family members love. Thus, working with your family to come up with food and meal ideas that you will all enjoy is crucial. It can even be fun to try new foods and cook allergy-friendly foods that you all may not have tried before. You may discover a new family favorite meal or just enjoy the process of cooking together while feeling comfortable yourself. Having allergies can be scary, but remember that food can be fun! Plus, your family will want to support you and make you happy in any way they can.
It can be difficult being the only one with an allergy. Perhaps you feel left out, like I often have when my family is eating food that I cannot eat. Or maybe you feel like a burden, forcing your family to eat something that is allergy-safe or giving up a favorite food that contains your allergen. It is extremely important to voice your emotions and know that your family cares the most about you and would never want to make you feel alone in this struggle. They prioritize your safety and happiness and want to find foods that make you enjoy eating, too! Grocery shopping with your family members to buy new allergy-friendly foods or exploring new restaurants that are allergy-friendly yet still delicious can be great steps towards lessening the struggle of being the only one with an allergy.
In the end, it is critical to prioritize your safety and talk about your feelings. Your family is here to listen, and know that they love and support you! It may take time and a little bit of trial and error, but living as the only family member with a food allergy can become easier through communication and working together.