The break room, lunch-time, potlucks, office parties. Food is a part of the workplace, which is usually something not many people think of – unless you have food allergies.
Whether it is volunteering, a part-time job, or a full-time job, food allergies are an added issue to the workplace, so it is important to take as much control and precautions as possible to keep yourself safe.
I have held a job since I was sixteen, so that makes over eight years of dealing with food allergies in the workplace, in three very different workplace environments. While the work environments may have changed, the issues have continued to stay the same, but four key tips have continued to keep me safe.
- Let your coworkers or supervisors know of your allergy. For me, allergies are an everyday thing, and something I have lived with for twenty-four years, so I forget that I need to explain and inform the people in my life that do not know about my allergies. No, not everyone will understand or even completely care, but the people you work with every day need to at least know about your life-threatening allergies. When I was promoted into a new department at work, it took months for a conversation to come up that prompted me to share about my allergies. My coworkers were surprised, and explained that they had wish they had known sooner. They were concerned for my safety.
- Keep your Epipen or allergy medicine in the same spot – and let your coworkers know where that is. It is important for people with life-threatening food allergies to keep their Epipen with them at all times in case of emergency. Whether it’s your personal desk, a closet, locker, etc. – your Epipen or allergy medicine should be in the same place every day. Your coworkers should also know where that place is, and if they are willing, taking the time to explain how to administer shots or medicine is even more beneficial for your safety and their ease.
- Have allergy-friendly snacks on hand. At every job I have worked at, there has been that secret drawer, closet, etc. filled with snacks and sweets to keep everyone moving through that afternoon lull. It can be tempting or frustrating when there aren’t any allergy-friendly snacks on hand, so bring your own! I keep a few snacks on hand (pretzel crisps and chocolate chips, my protein bites, fruit, crackers…) so that I don’t have to feel bad when everyone is snacking on candy and cookies that I cannot eat. As my coworkers learned about my allergies, they would ask what kind of snacks were safe for me, and now there is always at least one type of snack that is safe for me to eat!
- Keep wipes around. When you have life-threatening allergies, it can be important to be as careful and cautious to not touch any allergens. I work with kids – kids that do not understand what severe allergies are, kids that do not wash their hands, and kids that want to touch EVERYTHING. So that means I have to be extra careful in washing my hands and keeping safe. I have learned that I may not always be by a sink to wash my hands, so I wipes on me. For me, this also helps my anxiety just knowing that I have something on me that can keep me safe. Working with kids may add a little more risk in having severe allergies, but even coworkers sharing office supplies after eating a peanut-butter sandwich can cause issues, so it is great to have these on hand regardless of the type of job.