A resource for young adults living with severe allergy

What do you want to know

Talking to Friends About Food Allergy

Top Tips For Dealing With Your Friends

  1. Tell your friends where you keep your EpiPens® and ASCIA Action Plan.
  2. Share information on signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction
  3. Show your friends how to use an EpiPen (using a trainer) and what to do in an emergency.
  4. Don’t hesitate to walk away if a friend doesn’t take your allergy seriously.
"Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about your allergy as they can help you in an emergency. Good friends will take your food allergy seriously."

Don’t be afraid to be open about your food allergy

Hopefully, the close-friends you have made throughout high school will already know that you have a food allergy and know what to do if you have an allergic reaction.

But what about all the friends you make outside of school? How do you broach the subject with new friends – friends you make as an adult?

Friends and adulthood

As you get older and become more independent, it’s only natural that you will spend more time with your friends and less time with your parents. This means, that the people you surround yourself with may not know a lot about your food allergy and how to manage food allergy including emergency treatment.

You need to talk with your friends about your food allergy. You can consider asking a friend that knows about it to bring it up in conversation if that helps.

Find ways to tell new friends (and even trusted work colleagues) about your food allergy. Once you gauge how informed or supportive they might be, you can consider sharing signs and symptoms of a mild/moderate allergic reaction and those of anaphylaxis. You can also show them your EpiPenand ASCIA Action Plan. They will probably ask how to use it so you can then go on to show them. This should be done early on in your friendship. That’s not to say you need to tell every potential friend absolutely everything all at once, but those you see regularly and share meals with, need to know about your food allergy.

It is important that your friends are aware of your food allergy. They also need to know how to recognise the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and know how to use an EpiPen

Another good reason to tell your friends about your food allergy is that they should have your back. Educating your friends about your food allergy isn’t dorky or attention seeking – it’s smart. When educated about food allergy, your friends can:

  • Assist you in tricky situations (e.g. if you’re at a party and have had too much to drink).
  • Choose restaurants that they know you feel comfortable eating out at.
  • Stand up for you when others don’t take your allergy seriously.
  • Help when you accidently eat a food containing the food you are allergic to.

Friends who don’t ‘get it’

Have you ever told someone you thought was a friend about your food allergy, only for them to not really understand what that means?

It’s not a great feeling.

What can you do about it? You really only have two options:

  • Educate them, explain the severity of your food allergy, and what can happen if your allergy is not taken seriously.
  • Walk away. As much as it may hurt to end a friendship, if a person won’t respect the fact that you have a food allergy, they’re not worth having in your life.

Having said that, always try your hardest to educate a friend about your allergy first before deciding to pull the pin. You’ll find that most people are very understanding and will think no differently about you. They will probably respect you even more and ask questions they need answered.  Your answers to their questions will help them understand and they will look out for you – which is really important when you slip up like most people with food allergy do from time to time.

As you process all that has been communicated regarding friends and your food allergy there is one last point you need to consider:  How would your friend feel if you had an allergic reaction and they knew nothing about your food allergy? They would feel frightened and helpless if they are a real friend – you need to tell them as part of caring for yourself AND for them.

"Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about your allergy as they can help you in an emergency. Good friends will take your food allergy seriously."