Guest Post: Taylor – My Experience with Allergies at University

More files of this series and model on port. Made with professional make-up.

Hi, my name is Taylor and I am a second year student studying Commerce at Queen’s University. I have anaphylactic allergies to peanuts, nuts, and fish. I am lucky that I have never suffered an anaphylactic reaction or been injected with my auto-injector.

In September 2013, I entered my first year of university. It was the first time that I was completely independent. I was somewhat apprehensive to attend university; I knew few people in my program and at Queen’s in general. Not only did I have social and academic concerns, but I was also anxious about my food situation at school.

On move-in day, I arranged to meet with the cafeteria manager. He took us through a cafeteria and provided detailed explanations of the food preparation. At each station, there were signs listing ingredients and common allergens. I was told that, if I did not see peanuts, nuts, or fish written on those food signs, it would be safe for me to eat. He guaranteed that there would be no issues with cross-contamination. I was informed that the cafeteria chefs were trained and acutely aware of the severity of food allergies. I was also encouraged to ask staff members if I was concerned.

Following this meeting, I felt more at ease with the food situation. Throughout the year, I looked at the cafeteria websites to determine which cafeteria would be safest for me to eat at. I would also check the food signs prior to eating to ensure that my food had not come into contact with my allergens. Additionally, the cafeteria staff was able to inform me about food preparation to determine if cross-contamination was a concern.

On the weekends, I enjoyed venturing to downtown Kingston for dinner with friends. Due to my allergies, I usually ate at Italian, American or Greek restaurants. I would call in advance to ensure that the kitchen could accommodate my allergies. This would make me feel more comfortable and in control. I could often get a good sense of whether or not the restaurant took allergies seriously. There was one occasion in which I was invited to a party at a sushi restaurant. My call to the restaurant confirmed that there would likely be cross contamination with fish. I ate before I left and I simply ordered a drink and an unexciting bowl of plain rice. Although my food selection wasn’t great, I was safe and didn’t miss out on the social aspect of the evening. Being social is important. It is also important to plan ahead so that you are not tempted to eat something that is questionable.

As I enter my second year of university, I can confidently say that I have gained a new sense of confidence when it comes to my food allergies. I will continue to plan in advance and always seek clarification when I am unsure of cross-contamination.

Taylor

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4 thoughts on “Guest Post: Taylor – My Experience with Allergies at University”

  1. Hi Taylor, so glad ur feeling more confident. I am 35 and found out I was allergic to tree nuts and peanuts (hazelnuts especially) when I was pregnant. This is new to me and im terrified to eat I even make my own bread. I wanted to know if you feel comfortable drinking coffee and wine. I don’t even drink coffee out anymore because I am afraid of cross contamination with flavoured coffees. Do you drink coffee from a coffee shop, if so which one?
    Best of luck in school and with your allergies
    cheers
    Silvana

    1. Hi Silvana,

      My name is Aaron and I am the editor for Adults with Allergies. I also have nut allergies and, so, perhaps I can give you my own insights. I typically get regular black coffees at most popular coffee places and I haven’t had an issue thus far. That being said, cross-contamination is always a possibility and asking those serving the coffee questions about this is always a great idea. In terms of bread, there are a lot of available options at grocery stores that do no contain nuts of any kind. Just read the ingredients carefully!

      Hopefully these tips help,

      Aaron

  2. Hi Taylor! I remember being so nervous moving away to university and having to worry about meals being made outside of my own home and space. Luckily I filled out a form for health considerations in the university’s residence, at the University of Guelph. I listed my food allergies and ended up being placed in an apartment residence with 7 other students with the same food allergies who had filled out the same forms. We all were able to share a safe kitchen and had lots of support amongst each other. I think it’s great to share university experiences because it’s tough enough moving away from home and adjusting to university life without having to then cope with a food allergy.

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