What I Wish Every Teenager Knew

What I Wish Every Teenager Knew

by Brianna Hobbs

Last November, I attended the Food Allergy Blogger Conference in Denver. During the opening ceremony, we had a moment of silence for those who had died from adverse food allergy reactions over the past year. During the moment of silence, we watched a slideshow of photos labeled with the names and ages of some of those who had passed away. What shocked me was that the majority of the people who had died from a food allergy reaction were teenagers.

When children are young, parents are there to advocate for children and communicate the caution that is necessary to keep their child safe. With teenagers, parents or guardians are no longer able to “hover” over their kids to ensure they avoid cross contamination or accidentally ingesting an allergen. As a teen, dealing with an allergy in social situations can be awkward and embarrassing.

I have a younger sister who is now 17. She has an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts. Fortunately, she is very cautious and responsible. She is very careful when eating anything to make sure that it doesn’t have peanuts or cross-contamination, and she always carries her auto-injectable epinephrine. But the care she takes is not enough. She has had to learn to be her own advocate.

My sister attends a zero-hour scripture study class at her church. On Fridays, her teachers let the kids all bring a box of cereal and they have breakfast during their class. That sounds fun, doesn’t it?

It was fun, until one teen brought a peanut butter flavored cereal and then playfully threw a piece at another student. The teacher immediately stopped the student from throwing cereal, but it was too late. They had already contaminated the room. My sister had to leave her class for her own safety.  

Many adults and teens are still unaware of the seriousness of food allergies. For a while, my sister had to leave her Sunday school class every week because the teacher passed out peanut butter candy to the other students increasing the risk of cross-contact. The teacher knew of my sister’s allergy but had assumed that as long as she gave my sister a safe piece of candy, there wasn’t a problem.

It was embarrassing for my sister to approach her teacher and explain her allergy, so instead, she avoided the situation and left her Sunday school class every week.

Eventually my sister did talk to her teacher and explain what was happening. As soon as she did, the problem was resolved. The teacher just didn’t know that someone else eating peanut butter in the same room and increasing the risk of cross-contact could cause my sister to have a reaction.

When going to a summer camp, the first thing my sister did was sit down with her bunk-mates and explain to them what would happen if they brought peanuts into their tent. Once her peers understood the severity of my sister’s allergy, they were very cautious and considerate and my sister was safe.

Teens must learn to be their own advocates to safely live with food allergies. I am proud that my sister has accomplished that.

About the Author
Like many other people, Brianna Hobbs began baking gluten-free by necessity – many of her family members had issues with gluten. Determined not to stop eating her favorite foods, Brianna taught herself how to make just as good, if not better, treats.

In 2012 she started a gluten-free food blog, Flippin’ Delicious. Now she is sharing her favorite allergy-friendly recipes and tricks of the trade with you. You won’t have to spend countless hours trying to master the art of baking the perfect gluten-free sugar cookie, because she’s already eaten all the crumbly ones for you.