Maya's Happy Place

A multiple food allergy kid grows up.

Be Careful Where You Sit If You Have Severe Food Allergies

This post applies mostly to those who are anaphylactic to anything; never in a million years would I have thought where I sat in a public place would be an issue.

A few months ago, I had an experience that terrified me. Since I could not drive due to a health incident that happened in December, I had family who would drive me to places like the bookstore, Starbucks or Whole Foods, which all have an internet connection which allows me to write.

People with severe food allergies must plan ahead before even sitting down.

The café area of the bookstore is laid out so that the floor where you order your drinks or snacks is up higher about two feet from another seating area which is directly next to the upper seating area. Of course, there is a mini wooden ‘fence’ with bars to semi-separate the upper level from the lower level. This, of course, is not going to separate the air or breathing space. Tiny, microscopic or even visible rumbs can easily fall to the person down below. A latte made with milk can easily spill. There is also usually a peanut dessert or two made with pure peanut butter in what I call the ‘temptation case’. I’m sure many of you who have children with severe food allergies or whom have anaphylaxis to foods or drinks yourselves have never considered this. I didn’t either, until I heard two hungry girls set their plates down on the tables and noisily whip out snacks in small paper bags. The sound of the paper made me cringe because I knew they were only about four feet from my face and were not conscious of how they were opening the bag and taking bites and pieces. My heart was racing and inside, I felt like I was pacing back and forth madly, my fear of bothering others keeping me from saying something.

Caramel or peanut butter? Quick glances can easily fool you.

I kept sneaking looks over to the girl’s plate that was closest to me and of course my glances captured that light brown, caramel color which both reminded me of indulgent, rich and fatty caramel-covered goodness and death (because it could mean peanut butter). I either had to move to another spot or say something. Finally I worked up the courage to ask (once she was already practically done with it), “Excuse me, I’m sooooo sorry to bother you, but I have the peanut allergy…is that the peanut dessert?” I could tell she was a bit annoyed and said, “No,” while her friend was really nice and was like, “Oh no, don’t worry that’s okay. You have to be careful,” and she smiled.

So basically to avoid this situation, I try to sit on the top tier of the café, so nothing can really bother me since I’m at least several feet away from everybody, kind of like that ‘buffer zone’ on the plane. Also, don’t forget to always clean your table before sitting. I usually ask the person behind the counter for the spray for the table and they offer to do it for you. At Whole Foods, I usually do it myself using their spray and paper napkins which I like better because when the one at the coffeeshop/bookstore does it, they use a wet rag which is likely contaminated with lots of allergens, including soy and peanut. I realize I might look a little anal to those who do not know my circumstances so to avoid this, the best thing to do is to bring your own wipes which you know for sure are safe. I find keeping a bottle of Purell antibacterial liquid is perfect for cleaning tables with paper napkins. I also use it at my gym before laying on mats which could have sweat from someone who just ate a peanut protein bar or something I am allergic to.

Do you have any tips that you’ve come up with through your experiences? Please feel free to share below!


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