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A Food-Allergic Teen’s Experience of Living Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Food-Allergic Teen’s Experience of Living Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sophie enjoying the outdoors

Whew! Finally, we’ve made it out of 2020. Personally, being a teenager with food allergies living in a COVID-19 hotspot for the past year, I’ve felt a spectrum of different emotions and had experiences that I’m sure many of you can relate to. 

Even though some of my experiences were challenging, I feel extremely grateful for the support that I’ve had throughout the pandemic, and that my family and friends are safe and healthy. 

I thought that the beginning of 2021 would be a perfect time to reflect on the emotions of the past year so that we can all appreciate our newfound strength in our ability to get through the difficulties of 2020.

Anxious 😳

January: Finding out about COVID-19 for the first time

About a year ago, I vividly remember eating dinner with my family when my dad told us that the first person in the United States had contracted COVID-19. I remember feeling nervous about what this meant for my family – my sister and I both have food allergies, and my mom, sister, and I have asthma. 

At the time, there was so little known about the disease that my family and I kept going with life as if everything was normal – until it wasn’t anymore.

Uncertain 😷

March 12th: Remote learning begins

It was a surreal moment when I heard the school principal’s voice on a Thursday afternoon over the loudspeaker telling us to gather all of our belongings from school. We would not be returning to the building for three weeks, which turned into the remainder of the school year. 

I remember feeling so many different emotions. I was slightly relieved, because I knew that the school closure would be safer for everyone. I was also worried about what it would mean for the rest of my sophomore year.

One of the silver linings of the closure was that I wouldn’t have to worry about packing my lunch every day and bringing it to school, because I would be at home. Funny how things like being at home could take away at least one form of stress! 

Stressed 🙁

April: A new frontier – online grocery shopping

After a couple of weeks of doing online school, COVID-19 in New Jersey and New York was spreading almost uncontrollably. The governor ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, and there was a curfew for all New Jersey residents. 

Because of the dangerous situation, my mom began to use an online service to purchase groceries. While it was much safer in terms of Covid, grocery shopping at that time became tricky because of my allergies. 

Online groceries = Sticking to the familiar

Many brands had ingredient lists for products, but many allergen statements were unavailable online, making it impossible to tell if products were safe for me to eat. Because of this, we only purchased products that I had eaten before, or we called the manufacturer to inquire about their manufacturing processes to ensure that products were safe. We had to be very careful!

Enthusiastic 😄

June: My family got our first take-out meal

When the Covid situation improved slightly over the summer, my family decided to get our first take-out meal in three months. We ordered the meal from a local pizza place that I’ve been eating at since I was little (the owner has a nut allergy too, so he understands the seriousness of food allergies!). We picked up the order curbside, and then heated up the pizza in the oven when we got home as an added precaution.

As soon as I took my first bite, I forgot how much I missed the delicious pizza they made! It was really comforting to know that restaurants in my community were willing to help and accommodate my food allergies, even during such a difficult time. 

Grateful 😍

July: Internship with SpoonfulOne

In July, instead of getting to go to California to do it in person, I was fortunate to remotely intern with SpoonfulOne, a company that develops early introduction products for infants and toddlers that help reduce their chances of developing a food allergy in the future. 

I worked with their team and learned about their groundbreaking research. It was fascinating for me to learn how much food allergy research has changed since I was young. It was special to help be a part of reducing the prevalence of food allergies in the next generation.

See Also
Confidence with food allergies

Hesitant 🤨

September 2: My first (online!) day of 11th grade

In the fall, my high school offered both a hybrid learning option and a fully remote option, and I was among the 10% of students at my school who chose to be fully remote. My choice was based on an idea that many of us with food allergies know very well – “better safe than sorry”. 

As the year progressed, my days began to develop a steady routine for the first time since March, which was great! Every day at noon, my sister and I come out of our rooms and my dad comes out of his office (where he works remotely), and my family has lunch together before returning to our “zones” and finishing our days.

I am fortunate enough to barely worry about my food allergies when I have meals these days, because everything that I eat is homemade, thanks to my amazing mom!

Allergy friendly quarantine pasta dish
The pasta dish my mom makes for lunch… often

Hopeful 🤗

December: COVID-19 vaccines begin to be distributed

Finally, what the whole world has been waiting for – a way to end the pandemic! Of course, I was extremely excited about the news that vaccines were being distributed, but I had some questions, too. I read of incidences that linked allergic reactions to some of the vaccines, which was definitely nerve-wracking. Despite the uncertainty, I found a new sense of hope – there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel. 

New start? 2021

Now it’s January 2021, and I’m already feeling more optimistic because we have a new beginning ahead. Many challenges still lay ahead of us, and there will probably be setbacks moving forward. But coming out of this, I bet we will appreciate the opportunities for the little things in life, like eating out, visiting our families, and going to school even more. It is a reminder of  how strong we can be in the face of difficult times. 

Thanks so much for reading my story!

Stay tuned because I will be sharing how having food allergies prepared me for the feelings associated with being the only one in my friend group who chose remote schooling this year.

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