Carlo, how old are you and what are your allergies?
-I am 18 years old. I am allergic to Dairy, Wheat, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Soy, Sesame, Fish, Shellfish, Most Fruits and Some Vegetables.
Have you ever experienced anaphylaxis?
-I have been very fortunate to have not ever experienced anaphylaxis.
Since you haven’t experienced anaphylaxis to your food allergens, how did you find out you were allergic to the foods you listed?
- My pediatrician was very good about food allergies and suggested to my parents that I get tested, when I was just a newborn, because he suspected that I was a person who was likely to have allergies.
What types of symptoms do you experience if you ingest your allergens? Have you ever experienced contact or inhalant reactions to any of the foods?
-I am anaphylactic to Dairy, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Sesame, Fish and Shell Fish. Wheat is a gastro-intestinal reaction. Soy and some fruits and vegetables cause me to develop hives, throw up, feel my throat tingle, wheeze and symptoms such as that. I start to wheeze and cough if I’m in the same room as an egg being cracked. I haven’t had any major contact or inhalant reactions.
Do you still carry an EpiPen or two “just in case” ? How do you carry it?
-Yes, I always carry my EpiPen. It fits right in my pocket, no matter what I’m wearing (and I wear some tight, tight pants), so it’s not really a burden to carry it around.
You’re graduating from high school in a few months. Where do you plan on going to college?
-I’ll be attending the University of Chicago next year.
Did your food allergies play a part in your choice of a college?
-No, my food allergies didn’t play a part in choosing a college. I applied to the colleges that I wanted to go to and was confident that I could make it work.
How are you planning on managing your food allergies in college? Will you live in the dorm or in another living arrangement?
-I’ll be living in a dorm. I’m going to sit down with the Dining Services and talk over my allergies and what they’re capable of doing. When I was touring UChicago I had a meal in the dining room, and they have all the allergens labeled and all the ingredients displayed, for every dish, so I’m confident that I’ll be able to manage my food allergies well and eat in the dining halls.
I’m so impressed that the University of Chicago labels all of their food ingredients in the cafeteria! Did other colleges/universities that you debated attending do the same thing? Or is UChicago special in this way?
-A lot of the schools I considered attending did the same thing, or had something similar. I’ve found that, because there are so many different special diets that people follow, college dining services are very on top of disseminating what goes into their foods and making sure that there isn’t any cross contact–a fact just as important to a strict vegan as someone with major allergies. In the past I’ve attended programs on college campuses and I can say that the dining staffs have been nothing short of great about managing my allergies.
Do you tell your dates about your food allergies? How do you go about doing that?
- I’ve found that being honest and straightforward is the best way to go. A lot of dates/get togethers happen at restaurants or somewhere where there is food anyways, so it’s not as if you can avoid the topic. Mostly, though, people already know, because if you’re friends with me (which comes before dating), you’ve almost certainly been at a meal with me. Normally, when I meet new people and they have a meal with me, I explain it to them, because they get curious after seeing me ask questions to the waiter/chef and have such plain, sparse meals.