When I take time to look back at how I’ve learned to manage my allergies, it’s amazing to see the differences from when I was growing up versus now as a young adult. Obviously, when I was very young, it was my parents’ responsibility to ensure that I stayed safe avoiding allergens. It’s easy to see now that they were training me from a young age to eventually take on this responsibility. This started out with ensuring that I was able to identify what foods I couldn’t eat and only eating foods I knew were safe. Going to school, my parents really emphasized the importance of not eating anything that was from someone else and always carrying my auto-injector with me (and knowing how to use it). When I was starting school, my parents took on the responsibility of contacting my school and my teachers to ensure that they were also knowledgeable about my allergies along with informing them of where my auto-injector was kept. They would also make sure a plan was in place for storing my medicine in the school’s office and they established a protocol for field trips. My parents also made sure my medications were always up to date and that I frequently saw my allergist. I have now been able to assume these responsibilities myself—but this change was not something that suddenly took place; it came gradually over time.
As I got older, and progressed through elementary school and then high school, I was able to become more and more active managing my allergies. My first big shift in responsibility between my parents and I came when I entered high school. Having gone to the same school from kindergarten to grade 8, starting high school meant it was now my turn to meet with my new teachers and principal to introduce myself and discuss how we would ensure I was safe at school with my allergies. While I took on a bigger role in this, I have to admit my mom was still present and was the one who double (and triple) checked that I had taken all the appropriate measures to ensure that I would be safe entering high school. It would not be until I started university that I truly began to feel fully independent when it came to managing my allergies.
When I moved out, all of a sudden there was no one asking if I had my medicine with me when I left to go out. Initially, everyone I met was a stranger who didn’t know about my allergies; and it was my responsibility to educate them. I never fully realized all the things my parents did to help manage my allergies until they were longer there to help with this. That being said, as I mentioned earlier on, I felt like my parents were training me to manage my allergies from a young age. And this definitely has paid off. Going to university and living on my own have marked two of the biggest changes in terms of having total responsibility when it comes to managing my allergies; but I have never felt unprepared. Living on my own, I have lived a far distance from my parents and old friends who are already very knowledgeable about my allergies. I’ve also had various living arrangements that involved living with roommates who weren’t used to having a roommate with allergies. Along with this I’ve also travelled independently to other countries where I’ve had to manage staying safe with my allergies in a foreign nation. These are all new experiences I never encountered as a child. That being said, with every new experience I’ve had as a young adult, I’ve felt competent to ensure that I stayed safe by using the common sense my parents taught me about managing my allergies. I’ll admit that my parents still like to check in now and again to make sure I am staying safe with my allergies; but what is different now is that I am the one with the responsibility to manage this. One of the positive things that has not changed in this situation, though, is trust. When I was young, I trusted my parents to make sure I was safe with my allergies and, now having watched me grow up with allergies, my parents can trust me to do the same.
Caitlyn P.Tags: allergies, Allergies and the Buddy System, Anaphylaxis, auto-injector, Caitlyn P., personal experience, Travel