How do you deal with people thinking you\'re rude when you\'re protecting yourself/kids

Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 5:01am
KarenH's picture
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Joined: 09/21/2002 - 09:00

Yesterday I was at work, eating in the staff room with a group of co-workers. We're all chatting, and then another person joins us, with PEANUT BUTTER toast. She sat directly beside me, and places the toast inches from me. I got up and moved-FAST. I went to the other side of the table and moved waaaaaaay back so that I could still chat with them, but had a good distance between me and the peanut butter. I find that the closer I am, the more of a whiff I get, and the faster I get a reaction.

Anyhow everyone at the table looked at me with this shocked look, as if I had just done something horribly rude. I nicely explained that it was nothing against the woman, just that she was eating pb on toast and that I was protecting myself from getting a reaction. She could eat it all she wanted...but I was not going to sit beside her.

They still acted like I was rude, and then the woman says, "well I could go across the room and eat it...." and before I can reply someone says, "Oh no, we wouldn't want to isolate YOU" and they crack a joke about her having to sit by herself way across the room. Meanwhile, I'm backed up against the wall, practically isolating myself. And also not forgetting the time that I had to go find a room and eat all by myself, because some one cooked a peanut stew in the staff room. I'm sorry, but being isolated totally SUCKS. It wouldn't have been so bad had someone been understanding and joined me, but they all went on about how it was "too bad" that I had to eat in there, but not one of them wanted to join me.

I have since realized that these people really aren't my friends and really don't "get it". But I'm wondering how you deal with people who think you are over reacting or just plan being rude when you are protecting yourself or your kids. I have never had an anaphylaxic reaction to pnuts YET, but I don't want to keep exposing myself to them. Nobody (even my doc) really thinks that my reactions to pnuts are life threatening, but I'm not willing to take that chance. Especially with inhalation reactions occuring, my comfort zone has since become a lot tighter (and from what I've read and heard from you guys)

Me telling these women that I will die will totally fall on deaf ears. They won't believe it. So shock tactics aren't really going to work...although I wish they would.

[This message has been edited by KarenH (edited March 27, 2004).]

Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 5:38am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Karen H., I'm so sorry to hear what happened. No, none of those people in that room sound as though they're your friend, although perhaps there was someone there who simply didn't have the nerve to speak up, I don't know. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/frown.gif[/img]
I'm not going to be able to help you at all with this one, but your post alone and what happened to you has me quite upset. The isolation part of your allergy is what I was so angry about at the beginning of the school year when Jesse's principal wanted Jesse to eat in the office for the whole year. I told him no way, no how. Not at 8 years old, his 5th year of school, never having happened before, not going to happen now.
We had an experience on the bus last week coming home from Toronto and I recognize that I didn't deal with it well at all. I panicked and certainly other people on the bus (mostly students I think) probably thought I was downright rude. We had gotten on downtown at the main bus terminal and both children and I each got our own double seat 'cus let's face it, Sunday night, not that many people traveling to my town (would have been different if the bus went through to Ottawa). So, we're all comfie at the back near the bathrooms. Then, we had a pick up at Scarborough Town Center which I judged to be at least 20 minutes after we left downtown, maybe more.
When the person (the only one) got one, he settled himself right at the back as well, his own double seat as well and started to eat peanuts. I totally freaked. I could smell them in the back of the bus myself and I thought, Chrikey, we're just about to go on the highway and I don't need to be telling the bus driver to pull over on the 401 (the highway).
So, I told Jesse to get up and get to the front of the bus and a seat asap. I told him loudly and I actually told him quietly why (if that makes sense). My daughter was extremely upset that she had to move. We ended up, I sat beside Jesse "just in case" (he has never had an airborne reaction before and I wasn't sure if the smell would travel from the back to what was almost nearly the front now) and my daughter was a couple of seats behind me but in the other aisle. I was not comfortable with the seating at all but by this time most of the people occupying the other seats had fallen asleep or were quite comfortable and I just didn't feel okay about asking someone to move. I could keep my eye on Ember and I was right next to Jess.
Anyway, Ember was very upset, as I say and I said very loudly to her, not to anyone else, but perhaps loudly not just so I wouldn't have to move to speak with her but also so that people would know why we had rushed to the front of the bus - Chrikey, Em, we had to move. Your brother could die! Is your seat more important?
I can tell you, and everyone probably knows anyway, I analyzed that whole thing for the life of me. Should I have said something to the person eating peanuts and not fled? But by then, the smell was to me (and I'm not allergic) so heavy in the air I would have felt the need to move anyway "just in case". Should I have said something? The other difficulty I found was that I can't really say there shouldn't be any eating on the bus because we were as well.
Okay, so all of that out there and not very helpful at all - shows you that I freak out, get jittery and loud, manage to protect my child, but still freak and don't deal with things well (or at least in that particular case).
As you know I've been off-line for a couple of months and have only popped in a bit when I could at the library so please bare with me (or is it bear with me). Are you able to ask for a "peanut free" room where everyone is eating? I know that British Columbia has virtually NO policy re anaphylaxis in the schools, but as you have posted, there are schools that are "peanut free" (where you work just doesn't happen to be one of them).
Are you, as a PA adult, able to request a "peanut free" room? Do you have the equivalent of the Ontario Human Rights Commission in British Columbia?
If I were you in Ontario, I would be calling the Ontario Human Rights Commission to find out what was do-able. I'm not sure if you have done that and been told that you're sol.
I do know that you spoke with your union and I can't remember what they said.
I think your instinct and good sense served you well. You distanced yourself, but on a positive note about YOUR behaviour, you still kept within a distance where you could carry on the conversation. I'm not even sure that I could have done that. So, whereas the other people ended up basically turning on you (in my mind's eye) and not understanding where you were coming from (i.e., my life is being threatened, or I don't feel like going into anaphylaxis and spending a day in the hospital, sorry guys and gals), you still maintained grace and dignity while trying to protect yourself. Do you know what I mean?
My example I used above came to mind because it just happened within the last week. I'll see if I can think of anything else where I did deal with exiting a situation re PA a bit more gracefully, not basically fight or flight.
You did the right thing, Karen H. You have a wonderful DH and young son to think about as well as yourself and you alone, then those two gentlemen in your life are more important than those people at the lunch table. Really.
Best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 6:06am
Renee111064's picture
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Joined: 07/05/2001 - 09:00

Karen H, something that you may consider is talking to your HR rep and seeing if you can post something in the lunchroom about allergies and what can happen. Or if there is an e-mail that you could send to all in your company stating to please be careful of using "peanut products" of any kind becuase of severe allergic persons in your building.
I think because of my sons allergies that I have an awareness that others may not.
One good thing about talking to others is that my son is on a new baseball team this year and the wife of the coach was in PTO at our school. She made her husband aware of my son's allergies and that not to feed him anything and make sure nobody eats any type of peanut product in the dugout.
I haven't talked with this woman since last year since my son changed schools but she didn't forget. I had to thank her for this and was thrilled that someone has listened.
Have you taught anyone how to inject you with the epi-pen if needed. Can anyone locate one if need be. Just for future reference so that you can stay safe.
I am happy to hear that you did not react to the pb toast and NO you were not rude to move as far away from this person as possible.
It is just unfortunate that the others you work with just don't realize how serious this could be for you. Like I said, I'd talk to the HR rep to see if you can do something to make others aware of your situation. You never know what others may be allergic to but have not said anything about.
Good luck to you,
Renee [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/wink.gif[/img]

Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 7:51am
PeteFerraro's picture
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Joined: 07/10/2001 - 09:00

The reality of peanut allergies is that unless you have a severe food allergy or a close family member does, people just do not understand.
The only way that things will change is with increased awareness.
You can talk to HR until you are blue in the face. HR's primary concern is compliance. No law? HR won't touch it.
After the smoke dies down, I would print off some of the material from foodallergy.org and politely give it to your coworker to review. Explain to them why you acted the way you did.
It would be hard for me. My personality is more bull in a china shop.
Take care.

Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 11:43am
ssmd's picture
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Joined: 08/07/2003 - 09:00

Just two days ago our family was in the car, we stopped at a gas station to fill up. My DH went in to pay the attendant and it was taking a long time. He finally comes back , with this long story. The attendant was eating a hand full of peanuts just as my DH walked in, so he expained to him that our DS was PA and would like him to was his hands before and money was exchanged, so there was no chance of my DH getting his and dirty and the touching DS in the car. The attendant thought DH was totally crazy and did not want to do it until DH kept insisting he do it then it was done reluctantly, he thought DH was the strangest guy on earth.
It made us realise how many times this could happen without us knowing and we could cause DS to have a reaction. So we had a long talk about hand washing, on the way to Toronto.
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ssmd mom of 3

Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 12:19pm
KarenH's picture
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Joined: 09/21/2002 - 09:00

I have looked into the whole peanut thing and my rights at work according to my union. I can request that the staff do not eat/cook peanut containing products in the staff room, ONLY IF (and here is where it gets sticky) I have proof from a medical doctor that I have a life threatening food allergy. The reason why this is sticky is that my doc isn't sure if what I have is actually a LTFA. He checked my IGE levels and they were very low. *I* think I have a Pa...in fact I would bet money on it the odds are so good. However, considering the last three reactions I had to pb in the past month, I think I'll go back and insist that he refer me to a specialist. In the meantime, I'm not going to worry about the lunch room too much. I only eat there with other people once a day, and they are usually very good. Being in the classroom with all the pb is worse....but then I always just move away. The kids are awesome too, they always warn me when they have pb-and wash up. My problem is that if I make a huge deal of my PA and fight for a peanut free staff room, the district will just move me to the only peanut free school in the district. Which means that I lose the position at my present school that I've worked so hard to get.
What irks me is the insensitivity of people. They sit there and constantly yap about low carb this, low fat that, Atkins and South Beach diets, how they can't eat this or that. When we have luncheons they demand to be accomodated. And then I come along with a genuine REASON for avoiding a food and they think *I'M* being rude. Grrrr. Oh and yes, I have an epi at work. The entire staff is epi trained, as we have two children with Pa in the school as well.
Cindy, I don't think you reacted as bad as you think. Mine was much a fight or flight one, now that I think of it. As soon as I saw the peanut all I could think of was getting away from it....and boy did I move quickly. Sometimes the only thing on your mind is getting as far away from it as possible. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
I am thinking of discreetly putting a note in everyone's box, just nicely asking them not to eat(or cook) peanut products if I'm in the staff room. If I'm not, it doesn't seem to affect me. I'm wondering if this woman would be really upset if I did that. What do you think?

Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 12:32pm
KarenH's picture
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Joined: 09/21/2002 - 09:00

Here's a sample of the note that I may give them......
Hello all
As many of you know, I have food allergies to tree nuts and peanuts that I carry life saving epinephrine for. In the past six months, peanuts have increasingly become a problem for me, to the point where if someone cooks an item containing peanuts or peanut butter, or if they are eating a peanut product near me, I have an allergic reaction and require medication. So far it hasn't progressed to a full out anaphylaxic reaction. Yet. With repeated exposure, it very well can.
I am doing my best to avoid peanuts, as repeated exposure is dangerous. Especially right now, since I'm also severely allergic to pollen and a combination of the two could produce a very severe, life threatening reaction. I am asking for the staff's help. Please don't cook peanut containing foods in the staff room, or consume them in my presence. If I see that you have peanuts or peanut butter, I may move quickly away-please remember that it's not anything personal, I'm just trying my best to keep myself safe.
Thanks!
Karen

Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 1:10pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Karen. Sorry to hear this garbage is still going on.
You asked if we thought this woman would be really upset by your letter. Unfortunately, if she's half as ignorant as she sounds she probably would be upset - but would that make her spiteful? Would she suddenly need to eat pb everytime she saw you?
Using smoking as an example: some people ask do you mind if I have a cig? some don't ask, but if you politely say would you mind not smoking here please, they will either put it out or move away. some will roll their eyes and/or ignore you. others - they'll blow it right in your face.
She's obviously not the first or second example. But which of that last two do [b]you[/b] think she is?
*********
The people you work with (more than most adults) should understand. It scares the heck out of me - children are in their care.
If you don't mind answering this question, are the ignorant adults teaching staff? secretarial? cleaning? volunteer? (If you are not comfortable answering then just ignore the question - no problem.) Any staff at a school with kids with epi-pens and all staff are trained to use it - you would expect them to understand what it's all about.

Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 1:51pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Karen H., please excuse me but I am confused. Okay, you are PA? You do have reactions, which have included sinus problems to being around peanut products? You also posted about a bag of caramel corn was it and your reaction to that? I'm trying to be really clear here. You did post all that, right, in some form or another in various threads on this board (not always ones you started)?
If you are reacting to peanut products and have an Epi-pen prescribed to you for what I assume is your PA, how can your doctor not think that you have a life threatening peanut allergy? Is it because you have never had an anaphylactic reaction? What is it that this doctor doesn't get? Or, am I missing something?
Best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 2:44pm
KarenH's picture
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Joined: 09/21/2002 - 09:00

To be honest Cindy I don't get it either. My pa has seemed to come on gradually...and has gotten much much worse in only the past 6 months or so. Yes, I have an epi. Yes, I have had some pretty good reactions to peanuts-including the caramel corn, actual peanuts, a chocolate bar, and inhalation things (peanuts in a microwave, peanut stew, etc). I also can't figure out what it takes for this doctor to state that I have a peanut allergy. I have all the symptoms. He is only a GP though, that is why I'm going to request a specialist. I have had my Ige levels looked at, and was told they were very low. I don't think they have ever tested me for peanut. However, I have been tested for almond, walnut, and hazelnut...and while I have never reacted to them, I tested positive as well. My reactions to peanuts have been FAR worse.
Annamarie, to answer your question...well this woman is not a vindictive type, but I may hurt her feelings. She was quite apologetic over the whole thing and I think felt a bit bad...but I want her to know that it is in no way personal. It was the other women who were more catty about it. These are other teacher's aides, like myself. They work with special needs kids. One of them, to my dismay, is the first aid person (I'm the other first aid person)

Posted on: Sat, 03/27/2004 - 3:04pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Karen H., sorry, stupid woman again. See, I don't know anything about IgE levels so I guess that's why I'm even more confused. If your IgE level is low, then you're not supposed to be allergic?
(Jesse has never been officially allergy tested for PA, either by skin prick or RAST)
I have only dealt with GP's really, except the one time I did take both Jesse and Ember to see an allergist (before Ember was entering school) and they've always been able to clearly diagnose PA (the first one would have been the first E.R. doc ever to see Jess and most importantly I guess, prescribe an Epi-pen for him).
So, your allergy tests would indicate that you are TNA for sure, but because of the low IgE level it would indicate that you're not *supposed* to be PA?
From what you've posted here, I think your allergy, especially given that you have had airborne reactions (oh, maybe that's why you understood why I fled from the back of the bus when I smelled the peanuts last week, even though Jesse hasn't had an airborne reaction, thank-you [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] ) is pretty damned serious and it does need to be taken seriously by everyone around you.
How to get them to do that is your initial question and I'm sorry to get off track by asking you a ton of questions. I just wanted to be clear.
I'd get a doctor who will provide you with the necessary paperwork "just in case". I know you don't want to use it because you feel you'll get transferred out of the school, but I think I'd like to have the paperwork regardless. Also, I haven't read your thread in Off Topic yet re your DH's job offer in Texas or what's going on with you as far as moving, so maybe all of this will be mute, but still.
Your reactions sound quite serious to me and also quite frequent.
I'm worried and concerned about you.
Best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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