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Navigating day to day university life with allergies

student with backpack starting uni storyCongratulations, you’ve finished high school! It’s now time for the next step and perhaps that step for you is University.

Starting University can be an exciting but daunting experience. The rules are, there are no rules (almost). There is no bell, there is no home group teacher, there is no year level co-ordinator and most teachers aren’t going to scold you if you use your phone in class; fancy an Instagram scroll mid lecture? No worries! However, for most people, University comes with a set of nerves. Will you make friends? Can you handle the workload? But what every person doesn’t have to think about, is how to handle their allergy. However, for those of you reading this, it’s likely that you do and hopefully this article can assist you to conquer those nerves in some way.

University is different to school because it’s up to you to know how to manage your allergy. To the University, you are simply a number. Sure, you might have a really great tutor that will end up learning your name, but they aren’t going to ask you about what you are planning to eat for lunch that day.

Perhaps something that is unknown to those beginning life as a University student, is that you can eat whenever, whatever and wherever (almost) you want. That is something that I believe is important to know as an allergy sufferer. At University, people can bring in/purchase any food that they choose to. This means that there will be people eating common allergens around you each day. This isn’t something to be feared though, because this is okay, as long as you don’t eat their food. It can also be seen as a learning curve and an opportunity to develop the skills in how to manage your allergy outside of school.

University life doesn’t have much structure. You could have an 8am lecture and also have a lecture at 7pm the same day. So, what happens if you don’t live ten minutes away from the campus? It’s likely that you will stay at University for the duration of that day. This is where life as an allergy kid can become a challenge. In my experience, café’s and vending machines on campus don’t cater well for those with allergies and therefore, it’s up to you to bring enough food and store it appropriately for the day. Keep in mind, you do not have a locker.

So, what do you suggest I do? I hear you say. Well, find yourself a big backpack or other bag that is roomie enough to carry your laptop/books, EpiPen (of course) and food to last you the duration of the day. This could include investing in a good quality thermos or cool bag. Additionally, pack some baby wipes, as these are good substitutes for when you can’t wash your hands with soap and water.

Unfortunately, moving into tertiary education does not make living with allergies any easier. It can take its toll on your mental health and it is tiring! I do miss the days when my mum was taking care of all the hard stuff!

However, the moral of this story is that you can do it.

It will be tiring at times constantly being alert around people and your allergens. Nonetheless, you will gain many important skills that come with being independent. The ability to be confident and communicate with people you don’t know regarding your allergy (whether that be the best barista on campus or simply your new friend), organisation in regard to thinking about what you’re going to feed yourself for the day and the ability to recognise that you can manage your allergy all on your own.

I hope this has been helpful to those of you reading this and I wish you the best of luck in this next chapter of life.

Nikki

Age: 23
Allergies: Anaphylaxis to egg and dairy, oral allergy syndrome

Content created October 2019

IN AN EMERGENCY

If you are having an allergic reaction follow advice on your ASCIA Action Plan.

If in doubt, give the Anapen® or EpiPen®.

Do not call us for emergency advice.

If you do not have an ASCIA Action Plan and/or an Anapen® or EpiPen® call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.