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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Workplace and Allergies

This summer has been quite a challenge with many things including food allergies. Working while you have food allergies is a struggle alone without people who challenge your allergy at work. I got a first hand experience with this recently. A co-worker, I will call her Chelsea, made it very known that she not only doesn't believe my allergies are all that bad but also has made it her mission to discredit me, making it a very dangerous situation if I do have anaphylaxis at work.
When you have people like this it can be a very tricky if not scary situation at work that can lead to undue stress and anxiety. My goal in life is to educate people so younger generations who have food allergies don't have to run into situations like this that are so very uncomfortable and dangerous.
Typically people who show any disrespect toward you are pretty insecure with themselves. But someone who purposefully discredits your disability (Yes, food allergies are recognized as a disability by the ADA) are in denial about their own personal struggles. Again its a matter of insecurity but also a lack of empathy towards others. I know I don't have time for this kind of lack of feelings from others nor do I need the added stress.
Food allergies are a rather new element to the workforce these days since they are becoming more and more prevelant among younger generations. Our seasoned workforce will have to learn new ways to deal with food allergies and how to be sensitive towards those who have them. Whether it be one food allergy or multiple as I have, either way it can be a very real and scary situation if all of the sudden you can't breathe and your coworker doesn't think its serious because you don't have hives and you face isn't swollen. But as all of us who live with this know that every reaction can be different and each of us reacts differently when exposed to the same allergen. For instance, when I eat a peanut my throat swells shut and I get a runny nose with sneezing. I don't swell. But my neighbor down the street who is allergic to peanuts swells up like a balloon and looks awful. Both reactions can be deadly. Just because you can't see the reaction doesn't matter, you have to act quickly. Find their epipen, call 911 and stay with them!
This summer and fall I will be working with some fellow food allergic to come up with a pamplet that will hopefully help those we work with understand how food allergies work and how to be empathetic toward someone who has food allergies. When we have a completed pamphlet, of course I will post it here. This will hopefully be a very productive summer ahead that will produce some results for others entering the workforce with food allergies.
As for my coworker, I know she won't get it until it either happens to her or someone she is very close to so I keep my distance as much as I can, but stand up to her when she pushes. There is only so much you can do in a situation like this but keep your chin up and know that you have others who "get it".
Thanks to all who get it!

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