Telling your school friends about your Allergy

In this week's blog post we talk with Bryony about going to High School with an allergy. She is a young student from North West England who suffers from a life-threatening nut allergy. I’m delighted to share with you her experiences on May Contain & hopefully give more young people the confidence to speak up about their allergy in High School.

IMG_4436.JPG

Hello everyone! 

My name is Bryony, I am sixteen years old and go to High School in the North West of England. I found out about my allergy to tree nuts in my first year of High School, when I was eleven, after a minor reaction to Nutella. I have only had one major reaction, to pecan ice cream (which I thought was vanilla!) at a restaurant when I was 14. It was after this reaction that I was given my first Epipen, but have since moved onto Emerade auto-injectors. 

My school has always been quite supportive of my allergies, especially after I got my Epipens auto-injectors. They always had and still have a spare EpiPen, and then an Emerade pen which I later switched too. As well as that, they have always made sure to tell parents to refrain from letting their children bring food containing nuts on school trips. That has always been a touchy subject for me as I have always hated making a fuss over myself because telling a lot of people not to do something has always made me feel guilty, even if it could save my life. For me, the severity of my allergy has increased which is why I keep making extra efforts to speak up about my allergy. Especially because I have become more independent over the past few years and can’t rely on my parents anymore.  It’s so important to speak up about your allergy no matter the severity, particularly when we’re gaining independence over our teenage years into adulthood.

The residential trips in school have always scared me but my teachers have always been very supportive. For example, on my schools French Exchange trip in 2018, one of my teachers even made allergy translation cards for me which my family and I found so amazing. Recently, my school showed allergy videos in the assemblies which showed the school pupils how to spot the signs of an allergic reaction and how to use auto-injectors. Although I was scared that people would be annoyed that I could’ve been part of the reason they had to sit through another assembly, I was very happy my school was showing a great interest in allergy safety and finding ways to help those with allergies. I felt much more secure and safe in the school environment after the assemblies had taken place and then also felt much more confident when I was asked questions about my allergy by other people in my school, which made me feel that I was understood more which was a great feeling. 

IMG_4760.JPG

Personally, to make sure I feel safe at school, I always have packed lunches so I know exactly what’s in my food and that I can eat it without complications. My close friends have always made life much easier for me, both in and out of school. They fully understand just how serious my allergy is and how bad a reaction can be if I come into contact with nuts. When I first told them, they were all super supportive and have also made sure that they know how and when to use my Emerade pen. However there are some people who don’t know how serious my allergy is; I have even had people eating nuts in front of me, sometimes they didn’t realize, sometimes they didn’t care. That is why I’m so lucky to have such supportive friends; they’d often tell people to stop eating nuts around me when I didn’t feel brave enough to tell them myself. One of my friends even asked for the allergen menu at a restaurant for me when I was too scared to do so. 

May Contain is such a big part of why I now love to spread awareness about allergies. I really love reading this blog and seeing media posts on Instagram develop as May Contain normalizes having an allergy and truly made me feel like I was not alone. Personally, I don’t know anyone with a severe food allergy or with any form of adrenaline pen, so having a trusted space I can go to,to look for advice, surrounding how it feels to have an allergy whilst growing up, going to uni, etc... is so amazing! So because of this I decided to contact May Contain to let people around my age know that they aren’t alone and to help encourage people to speak about their allergies more and more as time progresses. 

In August, I received my GCSE results and I am happy to say that I have decided to carry on at the school I am at for the sixth form and although this means the atmosphere is still the same, there will be lots of new people. I must admit, I am worried that people may not understand the severity of my allergy, or that people will make fun of me. Learning and adapting to new situations has always been scary for me, but I know my family, friends, and school are there to support me. 

If anyone my age is struggling with similar situations to those that I have been through, make sure you always tell people about your nut allergy, both in and out of school. Don’t be scared, but be confident as it’s your life at risk and not theirs. If you feel something isn’t right, speak up - the safer you feel, the better! 

Daniel Kelly