Things You Should Never Say To A Person With Autoimmune Disease or Food Allergies

Autoimmune Disease | Chronic Illness | Invisible Illness | Etiquette

Things You Should Never Say to a Person With Autoimmune Disease or Serious Food Allergies

I’m going to skip past the customary introduction to the subject of autoimmune disease etiquette faux pas and allow your imagination to run wild. For the moment, let me just say that people say the dumbest things with the kindest intentions. Yes, they sometimes do.

I was on an airplane flight, and when the attendants began handing out snacks. As is my custom,  I politely returned mine with a, “I can’t have this, but thank you.” The attendant asked me if there was anything I could have from her snack cart, and I said, “I have Celiac Disease and a lot of food allergies, so if you have a gluten free snack, I could look at the ingredients to see if it’s safe for me.” She began to rummage through the options.

An older couple next to me overhead my response*, and the woman said to me, “Oh, I’m gluten free too! You should try their corn chips. They’re gluten free, you know.” I tried to explain to her that I couldn’t have those corn chips, because CORN (and the usual gastrointestinal HELL that is unleashed when I eat corn). Then her husband cut in, suggesting that I try flying to Europe sometime and eating their wheat, “Because this writer said that the wheat in Europe isn’t full of GMO’s and so we are safe to eat the gluten there.”

It took everything in me to not give them an eye-roll. Eye rolling is a sign of resentment, and yes, I have a number of things I feel resentful of in this life. Their momentary presence in my life is not one of them. But when I’m tired, I can feel my eyeballs start to move upwards, as if drawn by an irresistible force, and I have to just stop and breathe, emotionally lassoing my eyes to look straight ahead, soften my gaze, and relax my jaw from clenching.

On a good day, I can just listen and not react. On a stellar day, I can listen, not react, AND if I have the energy and the audience is listening, I can educate on the subject with a nearly unlimited amount of patience and understanding.

But on a day where I’m traveling, where there is nothing to eat, and the guy across the aisle is on his fourth beer and flinging  his gluten-laden snack and sandwich crumbs in at least two meters in all directions, I want to go off on a rant. A RANT, I say!

And so, you get to read my rant about the things you should never say to a person with Autoimmune Disease and multiple serious food allergies.

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Preparing for Illness on the Road

Food Allergies | Illness | Autoimmune Disease | Travel 

Successful travel, whether a road trip or a flight, requires thoughtful planning. Make your next trip a success by creating a prep list of essentials and planning ahead.
Successful travel, whether a road trip or a flight, requires thoughtful planning. Make your next trip a success by creating a prep list of essentials and planning ahead. Pixabay photo.

You and your luggage have arrived at your  budget hotel on the other side of the country. You planned well for your trip from home to your destination, with your allergen-free foods, dehydrated snacks, and plenty of fluids. You remembered to wipe down the tray table on the plane, you said “no” to all the interesting snacks and airline meals that rolled down the aisle. All your seat mates greedily accepted your complimentary deluxe snacks and alcoholic drinks.

Three days later, you are talking a walk with your relatives, who have gathered for the new addition to the family, taking in the unique natural beauty of the area, and chatting up a story storm.  As you lift your camera to frame an extraordinary photo, it happens.

Your tummy starts rumbling. Or,  you notice a rash forming on your cheeks, neck, and chest. A migraine starts to threaten the day. A feeling of panic, combined with resentment and, “Why me?” wells up from down below. The nearest Honey Bucket is a couple of miles away; a bush will have to do. Good thing you packed some wipes and Kleenex; your nose will survive with a few snot rockets and a wipe of your sleeve. The rash is looking red and angry.

But the problem is that you are far away from your car,  medical help,  or an urgent care facility. How well you planned for this trip and your life’s emergencies determines how immediately you can respond. As you retrace the last few days to understand why this event is happening to you, it may do you little good in the moment.

I want to talk to you about illness and managing the effects of your disease and/or food allergies and intolerances on the road, as this part of managing the lifestyle that comes with your desire to not be housebound. There are preparations you can make to help you better manage these emergencies, which can quickly turn an ordinary trip into a health disaster.

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