A PAL is someone who wants to “Protect A Life” from food allergies, and is an initiative created by the organization FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), and I am using their information with permission. Although it is aimed towards younger children, the program still provides valuable tips for teenagers with food allergic friends. There are five main parts to the PAL program: know food allergies are serious, don’t share your food, wash your hands after eating, have fun without food, and help your friend in an emergency situation.
Know that food allergies are serious. Food allergies affect the immune system, not just the digestive system, like an intolerance. Although some allergic reactions to food can be mild, with just hives, they can be anaphylactic and even lead to death. All food allergies are serious and should not be joked about. Respect the boundaries of the allergic person you know and always follow their allergy action plan.
Don’t share food- especially if it has no label. It is important for people with food allergies to know what is inside the food that they are eating, and when you share food, you may be unknowingly harming them. Your friend reserves the right to read the label and refuse your food. Just know that your allergic friend is only trying to be safe- not rude.
Wash your hands. If you eat something with a friend’s allergen, residue from the food will stay on your hands and can cause your friend to react depending on the severity of his or her allergies. Simply wiping or sanitizing your hands is not enough. Although it’s less convenient, using soap and water is much more effective in removing any food particles on your hands. You wouldn’t want a friend with the flu to sneeze in their hand before giving you a hi-five, so you should take the same caution with your allergic friend.
Have fun without food. There are tons of ways to include your allergic friend in activities without worrying about food. You could go bowling or play board games, hike or bike a trail at the park, or play mini golf, or see a show… the options are endless! If food is really a necessity, you could try baking something allergy-free in your allergic friend’s kitchen using safe recipes, or plan ahead and go to a restaurant that your friend is comfortable with, or bring food with labels.
Help your allergic friend in times of need. If your friend begins to show signs of an allergic reaction like hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of my eyes or lips, ask me if they ate anything unusual. You might need to obtain an antihistamine or epinephrine auto-injector. If things are super serious and need and epi-pen, you will have to call 911. Ask your allergic friend to show you how to use an epi-pen with their trainer. All you have to do is open the case, remove the blue cap, and hold it into the outer thigh for ten seconds. You don’t even have to see or touch the needle when you inject it.
Well, you have now completed the five steps to being a PAL, and are ready to make good choices when you are with your allergic friend. How do you help your friends with food allergies? Comment below with your insight on how you help your allergic friends.