I went to school in a time when food allergies were quite mysterious and rare. The ‘80’s and ‘90’s just didn’t view food allergies as common place, the way that they are now.
While I grew up with a dairy allergy, a classmate had a peanut/nut allergy. We were definitely the only two in our class, and I can’t recall if there were other “allergy kids” in other grades.
It was not a nut-free school, and I don’t believe the school staff had any extra training. There were no labels at bake sales. There were no rules on not sharing snacks.
I actually had one very negative event on a class trip, when a teacher didn’t believe I couldn’t eat the lasagna that was provided. I was 13 at the time, and will never forget the rude comments. It was a very frustrating experience, and I went to a McDonald’s® across the street because I knew I could at least get some fries there without judgement. (My mother was not impressed with the situation).
Other kids really didn’t understand either. There were often a lot of questions when I told someone that I couldn’t eat ice cream. I can remember explaining over and over again, that “no really, I can’t have ANY milk.” I’m sure my parents dealt with many of the same questions from other parents.
But, there were definitely some positives to my experience as an allergic youth. I learned pretty quickly that the only person that knew what was safe for me, was ultimately just me. I had no bubble of an allergen-friendly classroom. Growing up saying “no thank you” to treats and snacks just became normal for me. Although I am so thankful for the knowledge and safety provided in today’s schools, I think it’s important to teach my own son with allergies the skill to say no to risky foods and ultimately, learn to trust himself with food allergy safety.
– Morgan G.