The Expense of Having Food Allergies

As I left Venice ten Euros poorer, I realized both my frustration and astonishment by the expense of having food allergies. My roommate and I were in Venice for the day and were hungry after roaming around the narrow, windy cobbled streets along the canals. We stopped at a pizzeria and ordered. We both wanted to get pizza. I showed him my chef card in Italian. He told me that they used nut oils, and that I would not be able to eat any of the pizza or pasta (this was unusual and definitely a tourist trap). I then opted for a salad. I asked for some cheese on the salad, since it was just a plain salad with greens and a few tomatoes. When we got the bill, I was charged five Euro for the salad, and 4.50 Euro for the cheese on top of it. I could not believe a few pieces of cheese would cost almost as much as my salad!

This is only one of many examples of times when I have spent more because of my food allergies. It is disheartening to realize how much more I spend. I can’t just go to the grocery store and shop by price. Instead, I have to shop by ingredients. Here in Italy I have very few choices, so whatever brand it is and however much it costs, I just have to go with because that is my only allergy-safe option.

In an article on March 15, 2009, from Medical News Today, it reported on a study done by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. It said that, “families of food allergic individuals are more likely to have financial burdens as a result…” In the survey that they did, “families with a food allergic child were more likely to stop working, reduce working or incur financial problems.” I am not sure how they figured that out, but I do not believe that it would be necessary to stop working. As a teacher, I feel distraught whenever I hear any teachers talking about food allergies in a negative and unresponsive way. With more education now, it seems like there should be more schools and teachers who are responsive to taking care of students with food allergies. I know it is certainly a work in progress in many areas.

I found another article on U.S. News and World Report written on the same date on this same subject. The article said that food allergies could be a burden financially and for vacation plans. It also mentions how food allergies can have a “wide impact on a family’s quality of life.” I do agree that for some families, it COULD have an impact on your quality of life, BUT I know that it doesn’t NEED to have an impact on your quality of life. I don’t feel like my quality of life is impacted by my allergies. I feel lucky for what I have and that I am healthy, have wonderful family and friends, can go running, have a job, and so many, many other things. Sure, it would be nice to not have to read every ingredient BUT it does not play a role in my quality of life. Having food allergies can certainly be an added obstacle, but in the grand scheme of things, I feel very lucky for what I have. There are many things that could be a lot worse. We know how to keep ourselves safe from our allergies as much as we can possibly control. Always carrying epinephrine and antihistamines, bringing a Chef Card to ask ingredients and trusting yourself is a great way to feel powerful and in charge of food allergies. It can be done. I’ve done it!

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