Carin Azarcon Kaeser
When Your College Student’s ‘Got It’
When you send your teen with food allergies off to college, you’re never quite sure if the ‘allergy ownership’ seeds you planted took root. Here's a win-win story from a college student's mom. Enjoy...
I know there are many parents out there who are understandably concerned, or even fearful, as their child with food allergies heads off to college or wherever their future holds. I want to share some optimism and reassurance that they’ll find their way through college and into their young adult years, safely.
"When your child leaves home for their ‘next’, you just never know if your lessons will be remembered and used."
My daughter is a 21-year-old college junior who is anaphylactic to peanuts and tree nuts. I was beside myself with worry when she traveled halfway across the country to attend college in Texas. I wanted her to be careful with what she ate, advocate for herself and educate others so they would be aware of the severity of her allergies. We definitely worked on these skills at home while she was growing up. But, when your child leaves home for their ‘next’, you just never know if the lessons you shared will be remembered and used.
When my daughter was a high school sophomore, she had a life threatening encounter at a restaurant with pesto sauce. The pesto sauce contained tree nuts that the restaurant did not disclose. Thankfully, all ended well — we were at the ER within 15 minutes — but it was scary, indelibly imprinted in our memories.
My daughter shares an apartment with five girls. They’ve been friends since the beginning of college. Recently, one of her roommates went to the store and bought pesto sauce for a pasta dinner they were making. Her roommate looked at the ingredients — no nuts were listed on the ingredients list or called out in the allergen warning.
My daughter had planned to make herself something else for dinner, but really wanted to eat the pesto pasta with her friends. In an abundance of caution she called me and read me the ingredients list and allergen warning. She also sent me a screenshot of the ingredients. It all looked OK to me, so I told her it seemed fine. She considered putting some of the sauce on her arm to see if she’d react (she gets a rash just from skin contact with nuts). As we were talking, one of her other roommates had looked up the company/product website and saw that it clearly said "nut free", "gluten free", etc.
She was so happy. She could actually enjoy the pesto pasta with her friends.
"...she’s surrounded herself with friends who take her allergies seriously and go the extra step..."
I was so happy, too, for a few reasons. I was comforted because I saw firsthand that she’s surrounded herself with friends who take her allergies seriously and go the extra step to help her. I saw that she’s able to advocate for herself and that she’s educated her closest friends on how they can help her avoid her allergens.
While my concerns for her safety will never disappear — as an allergy mom you carry them with you 24:7 — moments like these make the distance a little easier to bear. I see that those ‘how to’ lessons over the years on managing her food allergies were not forgotten and in fact, help her stay on top of her allergies with caution and care.
About the Author: Carin Azarcon Kaeser is a mother of two (three if you count her beloved 3-year-old Lab), wife, and attorney. She’s an avid college football, SF 49’ers, SF Giants, and Philadelphia 76’ers fan. She’s also a long time ‘allergy mom’ — with both children diagnosed with food allergy as babies. She was the parent in pre-school, elementary, and high school who was always educating other parents, teachers, coaches, teammates, and administrators about food allergies. While her son outgrew his allergies as a toddler, her daughter, now a college student, still manages multiple food and medication allergies. For Carin, watching her daughter from afar successfully navigate dinner-in with college roommates was a win-win moment.
Image Credits: Thank you to Carin and to Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels for use of the images
Note: Food Allergy Awareness & Connection Team (FAACT) offers a college resource center with downloadable resources to guide food allergic families through the college process.