This month’s Allergy Teen Talks features Ramsey, who explains his experiences related to one of the most important aspects of being a teen with food allergies- the social impact.
He shares some of his allergy struggles that many of us can relate to, while also giving insightful advice to both teens and parents about managing food allergies. Ramsey’s insights into the positive aspects of having food allergies are inspirational, and his story helps us remember to make the best of our situation and to focus on the positive, just like he does.
I hope you have a fantastic February and Ramsey’s insights help you make the most of the valentine celebrations!
p.s. If you want to check out my interview hop on over to Introducing Allergy Teens Talk
Allergy Teens Talk: Ramsey
Name: Ramsey Makan
Allergies and when you were diagnosed: I have over 20 food allergies, including peanuts, tree nuts (Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans), dairy (milk), eggs, soy protein, shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, clam), legumes (chickpeas, black-eyed peas, Lupin, black beans, red beans), and other seeds (sesame and mustard). I was diagnosed at 13 months.
Age/grade: 14 years old, 9th grade
Teens with food allergies talk!
Q: What is the main struggle you faced growing up or being a teen with food allergies?
Ramsey: I often feel uncomfortable at social events. Even though I’ve grown more accustomed to protecting myself from food at these events, I sometimes wonder if I am too vigilant and if I’m letting my wariness get in the way of how much fun I have.
Q: How does having food allergies affect your social life (dating, parties, etc.)?
Ramsey: Having food allergies affects my social life since it can make me feel uncomfortable and nervous. Compared to those without allergies, who are far less tense and more relaxed at the parties, I have to keep my eyes open at all times for my own safety concerns regarding my food allergies. Over the past few years, I have started to solve this problem and find a good balance between carefulness and a sense of fun.
Q: How do you advocate for yourself when it comes to your food allergies?
Ramsey: How I handle the situation depends on where I am. If I am going to a party where they serve food, I tell the people distributing the food about my allergies and bring my own food. When I go to an allergy-friendly restaurant, I bring something called a “chef card” with a list of all my allergies and safe ingredients
Follow Ramsey on Instagram!
Q: What advice would you give to other teens with food allergies?
Ramsey: I would tell other teenagers to not be afraid of drawing attention to themselves. Many teens get seriously hurt or even die when having an allergic reaction because they’re afraid of being embarrassed by asking for help. That is the worst thing that any person with allergies can do for themselves, so I ask other teens to not be afraid.
Q: How do your friends treat you when it comes to your food allergies?
Ramsey: I think it is difficult for people to truly understand what having allergies is like. After a few years of knowing me, my friends began to understand, respect, and advocate for my allergies by taking precautions when we hung out together.
Whenever I went to my friend Dylan’s house or my friend Dwight’s house, their families would clean everything, put away any allergen-containing foods in the pantry, and try to buy me safe foods like my safe microwave popcorn. (Yay Orville Redenbacher!) I appreciate everything they do for me, and I am lucky to have such spectacular friends.
Q: How have you become more responsible in handling your food allergies, and have you experienced a shift of responsibility from your parents to you?
Ramsey: I have taken control of being responsible for my food allergies. My parents are amazing and would always take great care of me, but beginning when I was about 12, I experienced a shift of responsibility. They still are great about doing food allergy research and try to help me in every way possible, but their trust has grown.
Now, I am responsible for bringing my Auvi-Qs everywhere, telling waiters/waitresses at restaurants to change their gloves, bringing my Chef Card to allergy-friendly restaurants, and more.
Q: How do you handle your food allergies at school / in college?
Ramsey: In the past, I have had to advocate for myself and my friends with food allergies. Once, I found the wrapper of a peanut butter bar under the food allergy table, so we alerted the vice principal, who had the custodian clean it up and give us another table.
I have never been afraid of advocating for myself in school. Since I started my freshman year of high school, there have not been any major incidents. So, I take the usual precautions, like telling my teachers and the school about my allergies as well as carrying my epinephrine everywhere along with Purell and wipes at all times.
Q: What advice would you give to the parents of young children with food allergies?
Ramsey:I would tell them to not be afraid. When my parents found out that their one-year-old had a slew of food allergies, they were scared too, but we learned how to handle it.
Another thing new parents have to learn about if their child is very sensitive, like me, is cross-contamination. Whether they make food for their child or someone else does, materials touching allergens mustn’t be used in their cooking. This includes learning to tell servers at fast-food restaurants to change their gloves, designating some of their pans at home as allergy-friendly dedicated, and researching brand names to ensure no cross-contamination at the factory.
Q: What positive things have come out of having food allergies (have you benefited from them in any way)?
Ramsey: My food allergies have resulted in many great things. For instance, I have met many friends at food-allergy tables, I have received the opportunity to be part of FARE TAG (Teen Advisory Group), and I have learned many important lifelong advocating techniques as a child.
Also, my family recently moved to Florida, and one of the reasons why we did is so that we could be closer to the allergy-friendly restaurants in Disney World. So, food allergies have some positive outcomes.
🍽 Favourite restaurant: Chipotle is my favorite chain restaurant, but my favourite overall is called “The Wave of American Flavors,” an allergy-friendly restaurant at Walt Disney World.
🍪 Favourite food: For breakfast, it’s pancakes, for lunch/dinner it’s steak, and for dessert it’s chocolate cupcakes.
🍬 Favourite allergy-friendly product or brand: Enjoy Life foods
👍 Which social media platform is best? Facebook
🦸♂️ Dream job: Visual Effects Supervisor for a movie company (Disney or Marvel)
📓 What do you do after school on an average day? Attend a club (science olympiad, programming team, or math team), do my homework and laundry, play with my little brother
📱 Texting or talking? Talking!
💙 Describe yourself in three words: Smart, Friendly, Perfectionist
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Sophie is a sophomore in high school and our Teen Editor who lives with multiple food allergies . She created Food Allergy Alliance, a virtual allergy support group. She loves to bake and babysit. Sophie hopes you find the positive side of an allergic life.