Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Want You To Come Over, But I Don't Want To Kill You: Hosting Someone With Allergies

More than one person I know has told me that they want me to come over for dinner, but they are afraid to feed me due to my allergies. I cannot speak for everyone, but I can say for myself, I never want anyone to be worried about inviting me over or spending time with me! I thought it might be helpful if I put together a list of some 'helpful hints' when hosting friends with allergies. 

Here are few simple things you can do to enjoy your friend’s company without worry! 

  • Make sure your house is clean, especially areas where a guest may be sleeping.  Dust, mold spores and pet dander are common in homes and also common allergens. Help ensure your guests are comfortable with a few simple preparations:
    •  Provide all freshly cleaned bedding for overnight guests.
    •  Ask any overnight guests if they have allergies to pillows—some people are allergic to feathers, others to latex foam, etc.  If someone has a sever allergy, he/she will most likely offer to bring his/her own pillow. Asking them may help remind them to pack a pillow and it shows are a super fantastic friend and host. 

  • Make your gusts aware of any pets in your home. For someone with a pet allergy, knowing ahead of time can help. For some, it will determine if they can stay overnight or not in your home. 
    • If your guest suggests that you go out to eat instead, or suggests something other than visiting your home, please do not take it personally!
    • Keep an eye on any kids who are visiting your home. Kids are not always as conscientious as adults when it comes to avoiding pets and situations that may cause a reaction.  Do your best to help keep kids away from pets you know they are allergic to and alert their parent/guardian if you think you notice them having a reaction. 

  • Ask about food allergies before planning your menu. Most of us with food allergies are just as afraid of being a burden on our hosts as our hosts are of feeding us!  Being asked ahead of time can ease some of the fears on for both you and your guests. A few guidelines to help you have the conversation.
    • Be prepared to let your guest know exactly what goes into each of your dishes.  Someone with allergies is not trying to be rude by asking for details, and they are not purposely trying to weasel that secret family recipe out of you.
    • Make sure you ask if there is anything that they cannot have anywhere near their meals. For some with severe allergies, even having an item present on the table can cause a reaction.
    • In my experience, for most people, the list of food allergies is concise and easy to work around.  If you are hosting someone for whom this is not the case, such as someone with a latex allergy or a long list of food allergies, it may help to ask, “I was thinking of making _________ , will that work ok with your allergies?”  as opposed to, “What are your food allergies?”.  I find the former question much easier to answer than to try and laundry list all the foods I can’t eat for someone.
    • Do not be offended if your guest insists on bringing a dish. This may be them trying to be polite, but it may also be them ensuring there is something that they can eat at the meal.  Your efforts to accommodate them will not have gone unnoticed; it’s just a self-defense mechanism.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask a parent to pack a child’s meal.  If you have a child coming to your home and you are nervous about his/her allergies, ask the parent to pack a meal for the child. I do not have kids, but if I did, I know I’d have no problem with that. In fact, I’d feel good doing it and be glad that the parent is thinking of my child’s safety. As an adult, I’m also not offended at all if people ask me to make sure that I bring my own food somewhere. I usually offer to, anyway, just because I don’t like others feeling obligated to navigate my allergies.  

    • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Though you may want to avoid asking for the gory details what happens when someone reacts to something, I know that, personally, I’m never offended by someone asking questions. When my friends ask me things, it shows they are being concerned and considerate.

    Anyone out there have anything to add? Leave a comment! Share your thoughts!

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