Thanks to Tiffany, we have an intimate insight into a parent’s worries and fears for their allergic child when they head off to university alone…

Helicopter parent of an allergic child

Tiffany (aka helicopter parent) planning which university is best for her allergic son

“I want to say I’m not a ‘helicopter parent’ constantly hovering over their child, foreseeing every eventuality and preventing disaster… however here we find ourselves looking for a university a full 15 months before my son is expecting to go! The reason? My son has anaphylaxis.

Before the university search began I felt we had handled the whole ‘living with a life threatening allergy’ thing rather well on the whole. We had a few near misses, and sometimes learned the hard way that we needed to be assertive when eating out, as catering staff sometimes thought we were being ‘fussy’. Mainly though, we did ok, despite Alex having to avoid Milk, Eggs, Soya, Peanuts, Tree nuts and Sesame until he was 11. At 11, things improved drastically when he finally outgrew his milk, eggs and soya allergies… finally a birthday cake, no mayonnaise though, the eggs didn’t go completely!

I should be able to handle the whole university thing, I already have a daughter who left last year to go to uni in Leicester. The difference is the only thing I need to worry about with her is being safe on a night out, and the usual leaving home concerns of eating properly, running out of money etc etc.

With a young person who is anaphylactic, the worry steps up to another level. Will he read all the labels when he’s shopping? Will he get drunk and eat something he shouldn’t and have a reaction? Will he carry his EpiPens? Will he tell his flatmates, tutor, new friends, work colleagues about his condition? How does he go about being safe and sharing a kitchen? Will he remember to keep taking his asthma medication, and stay well?

There are two answers to many of these questions. The first is that I have to trust that I have prepared him well enough to cope with all of these new experiences, the second is ‘here we are, looking at universities 15 months before he’s due to go’!! Preparation is key… forewarned is forearmed… you get the drift!!

Next stop Stafford University open day… watch this space!”

Has anyone out there been through this?
Any tips for finding a safe university for your allergic teenager?

I think as long as new friends, house mates, tutors and the university know someone has anaphylaxis, what this means and how to administer an injector it’s part of growing up. You have to begin to make your own way in life which is a scary prospect when you consider the importance of alcohol at university and the implications this has for people with allergies. Alcohol can speed up a reaction and also slow down your reactions to any possible early warning signs like shortness of breath and itching.

I’d love to hear from anyone at uni, planning to go or who has had a good experience or bad. I went to uni and I did have a peanut allergy, but back then it wasn’t really such a big deal, however I did have my worst anaphylactic reaction in my first year of uni. I wasn’t with my parents, I was out with colleagues during my work placement. We went for a curry and despite questioning and asking for a peanut free meal they ‘picked out’ the nuts. I kid you not. It was awful. I passed out after making a royal mess of their bathroom. Everyone just thought I was drunk but I lived to tell the tale – in the days before adrenaline auto-injectors. Thank goodness things have improved since then.

Indian and ethnic restaurants are NEVER a good idea, especially if you have a nut allergy. You can always meet friends after for a drink, say you’ve already eaten etc. There are ways of politely declining invites out for a curry. Buying the weekly food will probably cost more, freefrom food always carrys a price tag.

I’m thinking Alex needs an allergy friendly cookery book as a going to uni present?

Good luck Alex and Tiffany! Let us know how you get on.


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