When a lot of folks hear the word “allergy” they picture someone from a Claritin commercial–sneezing, congestion, and itchy eyes. While sneezing isn’t exactly how I want to spend my day, it’s also not life-threatening. But a anaphylaxis is a whole different animal.
I’m allergic to peanuts, but this isn’t your watery-eye-level allergy. Once, while standing in line at Disneyland, the woman in front of me opened a jar of peanut butter. I got my butt out of there as quickly as possible, took fast-acting allergies meds. But I still had to use my Epi-Pen and call 911 to come escort me off to the ER. And all because of a jar of peanut butter that I didn’t eat or even touch.
It Effects My Whole Life
The impact my peanut allergy has on life is not limited to vacations. Due to displays of peanuts, most of the grocery stores are so unsafe for me that I can’t even walk in the door. And when I want to shop at one of the “safer” stores I have to bring someone who is trained on how to operate my Epi-Pen and the importance of calling 911 to act as lookout and bodyguard; they scout out the grocery store, checking for peanuts and figuring out the safest route for me through the store, before I’m even able to venture inside. And, once inside, they have to literally stay at my side while I figure out what kind of shampoo or veggies I want.
I even have to bring a scout or call ahead if I want to swing by a coffee shop. I’m unable to go to most people’s houses, due to the likeliness of running into peanut products. Going to holiday or birthday parties aren’t options (unless I’m the one hosting it). If I go to the movies, I have to bring Epi-Pen trained friends or family members and I have to wait until the movie has been out for a bit and go to a morning showing to make sure there will be less people. And going to my university is the scariest of all (see Food Allergies: When College Isn’t Safe).
In short, my peanut allergy has gotten to the point of being disabling. It impacts where I can go, when I can go places, what I can do, and even if I can go grocery shopping by myself. Personally, I feel like my allergy is a disability but having it “officially” count as one as far as my school is concerned is another matter. But as of today I’m starting the processes.
I talked with a very helpful woman at Disability Support Services (DSS) at my university about having my peanut allergy count as an official disability. This would mean that I wouldn’t just be pleading with my classmates to not eat peanut-y products in class; it’d be required. It also means that if someone cracked open a bag of peanuts behind me while in the middle of a test (something that’s actually happened before), I’d possibly have a better chance of being able to reschedule my test.
But the main thing I’m looking for is allergy prevention. And some support. It’d be so helpful to not be at the mercy of my teacher understanding that when I say I have a life-threatening airborne peanut allergy I’m not saying it’ll make me sneeze (how seriously the teacher treats my allergy impacts how seriously the whole class treats it).
The first step is getting my regular doctor to write a note explaining the severity of my peanut allergy and what accommodations he recommends (peanut-free classroom). Once I get that letter, which will hopefully be very soon, I get to plead my case to DSS. Wish me luck!
Other Articles of Interest:
- Simple Spaghetti (gluten & allergen free)
- Food Allergies: When College Isn’t Safe
- Gluten-Free 101: Cross-Contamination