Hey Amy Marley. Thank you so much for trusting me. I know your child means the world so I took a few days to try and provide eventually useful advice.

  • As much as possible, when traveling and especially when choosing a place to live, make sure you are maximum 10 minutes to a high-quality hospital or clinic. If you are going to be staying for more than a few weeks, go there. Explain you (your daughter in this case) are allergic and the next time you come in you might be unconscious so you want to give them all your documents and information. If something happens at home the emergency services will take you to a team who already knows what to expect. Saves time. Could save a life.
  • In social gatherings, if I am not with a close friend, relative or if they are not very trustworthy (or might get drunk or leave before me) I look for someone to “trust with my life”. This is to avoid bystander effect, everyone screaming as you collapse but nobody calling an ambulance and expecting someone else to tell them you are allergic. In restaurants, nightclubs, movie theaters, if I go there often, at some point I speak to the manager. I make sure they understand I love the place and the service is wonderful and I want to continue coming and bringing friends so please don’t force anything on me, accept that I will only be drinking tea, “and by the way, this is my allergy list in case I have an accident”. The more trustworthy people you have in your everyday life, the safest you are. Security guards are great! Choose quiet people but those with authority. They need to keep their calm.
  • Dating. Now that’s an easy one! On my first date, before we order anything, I tell the person there is something very important we need to clear. I explain I am allergic to this, this, this and that. And tell them that if we are going to be spending time together they need to know what to look for in my bag in order to save my life if I lose consciousness. The funny thing is all of those dates ended up in long term relationships. Except for one person, I have never heard a complaint, never needed to ask. Men who dated me made sure to have their house free of everything I am allergic to before I came to their place. They didn’t eat anything I am allergic to except while I was away on a business trip or they were. One of them had children (8 and 12). They didn’t bring anything home that might cause an allergic reaction. There was a safe box in their father’s car where they would leave anything suspicious so there would be no chance of me touching it while doing the dishes or taking the rubbish out. They were actually very protective of me and having them around was like heaven! They did all the explaining, all the checking. Just like every man I ever dated, even the most abusive ones. I had only one experience where I got blamed for “making everything complicated”, but he was grumpy.
  • Last but not least. I can suffer from malnutrition, especially if I stay too long without cooking for myself because I will just then just eat plain bread or plain rice for example, when I am traveling. So always go for Airbnb even when your company is paying for a hotel. I need iron and some vitamin shots once a year, sometimes more sometimes less. Be careful that your daughter is not targeted by idiots who think she is proud of being skinny (it tends to happen when you have an unbalanced diet). Even some adult women can feel threatened if you are the center of attention so I avoid saying I am allergic (except to that one person). Being diplomatic is the hardest part. I have a conversation with my host and I realized unless they know something about allergies it can be complicated. I also avoid talking about it at work because I don’t want to seem like I am too fragile to be given an important assignment. Last time my boss invited me to lunch, I said I had food poisoning to avoid eating.
  • Last but not least: my allergy list starts with what I CAN eat, drink or be injected with. Then comes the list of what must not be brought close to me under any circumstances. Although I have not been very serious about it lately, have a mailing list of people to keep updated. It includes my doctors, sporting clubs, trainers, family members, close friends, my neighbors. Most people who already have allergies will continue to develop new ones. For me it’s on average one each year.
  • I think it’s important to develop other ways of socializing than over food and drink, outdoor activities, music, dancing, safe but fun things so that your daughter will never have to choose between having friends and being alive.

I hope this helps. I would love it if you wrote a piece about this from my experience and other adults sharing how they are organizing their lives with allergies! It would be immensely useful. If you do, there is something I am still struggling with, as it depends on countries, but what is the best way to carry your allergy list? In South Africa they have specific metal bracelets, in Europe, it’s more like a tag you wear as a necklace. What would be your suggestion?

Thank you again, very much, for this opportunity to help but also to reflect.

Kindly yours.

Femme fatale. Happy go lucky full-time traveller and writer based in the Southern Indian Ocean. Crime survivor and criminologist. African diaspora historian.