- Alia O'Brien
How Technology Helps with Food Allergies: A Teen's Perspective
Technology's Impact on the World
Technology is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s society, and for people with food allergies, that is a blessing. Technology allows people from all over the world to contact each other, share experiences, and discover new things at the drop of a hat. Sites like Yelp are great places to find reviews, whereas Instagram allows old friends to see how the other is doing. All of these sites are beneficial for people of all sorts, but especially for those with food allergies.
Technology's Role in Managing Food Allergies
I’ve had food allergies since I was born, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more aware of the array of challenges they can cause. Many Americans enjoy eating out as an activity: it’s a way to show relatives or friends from out-of-town the local culture, as well as a fun way to get out of the house and enjoy some tasty food. For those of us with allergies, though, eating out isn’t simple. First, we have to find a restaurant with a menu that looks safe and allergen-free. Then we have to contact the restaurant to make sure they understand the severity of food allergies and are willing to accommodate to our needs. This often leaves fast food out of the question, and trying to go through every nearby restaurant to find one that looks okay can be a huge time consumer. This is where technology comes in. Apps like Allergy Eats are databases where anyone can create an account and leave a review of a restaurant they went to. Every reviewer writes about their allergies and details like the location, menu, and name of the restaurant they went to. Then, when someone else with food allergies wants to eat out, they can search their location on Allergy Eats and it will pull up all the restaurants within a 5, 10, 15, or 20 mile radius that others have left reviews of. It makes finding restaurants much easier.
Technology in Social Situations
Another tool that I’ve found incredibly useful for helping me deal with my allergies is my phone. There have been times when I’ve been in new or uncomfortable situations with food, and my phone is really useful in these situations. Last year was my first year of band camp, and I was the only one who brought my own food. Except for one friend, I didn’t know anyone there. I ended up freaking out and going to the bathroom to calm down, and I brought my phone with me. Using my phone, I was able to ask my friend to explain to everyone at our table why I was bringing my own food, and to ask them to be careful not to keep any of their food items close to mine. This helped to calm me down a lot, because I didn’t want to have to deal with the attention of others asking about my food. My phone has also helped when I’m out with friends and have a question about ingredients: I can just call my mom and ask her if it’s safe, or I can go on the Internet and look up ingredients that are unfamiliar to see if they are derived from any allergens.
In any situation, I make sure to have technology handy to help me manage my food allergies. It has helped me find safe places to eat, look up ingredients, contact others, and get me out of stressful situations. In the end, I know that as technology develops, I'm really excited to see how its advancements might be able to help me even more in the future.
Alia O'Brien is a blog contributor for Likeable STEM and has a passion for band, politics, and helping other people. She aspires to be a special education teacher in the future and is interested in writing and psychology. Alia also has food allergies and is dedicated to being an advocate for herself and others with food allergies.