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How to manage your allergy at university - from a grad who's been through it

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Allergies can make the idea of preparing and eating food in communal areas pretty daunting. Particularly during freshers, when everyone and everything is new, it may feel like allergies carry a weight of unwanted baggage.

But, in reality, the situation will likely be nowhere near as difficult or scary as you first thought if you're careful and prepared.

cooking

We chatted to Belle, 22, who graduated from the University of Gloucestershire last year, to hear about how she found university life with a severe nut allergy and to find out her top tips.

Belle's allergy can be triggered not just be eating nuts, but also by inhaling airborne nut particles or touching surfaces with traces of nuts. Yet, despite the severity of her allergy, she says she found it “really easy” to manage at university by being careful and sensible about it throughout.

“My flatmates were very understanding, and we had a strict no-nuts policy in our halls which everyone stuck to,” she tells us. “I was really lucky.”

Her number one tip? “Be open about it.”

If you tell your friends and flatmates about your allergy from the start, they can learn how to avoid triggering it with their foods. Although some may not initially be aware of the severity of allergies, you can help to dispel any myths or confusion through open, honest conversations.

“I think that being open not only helps yourself, but it helps to educate others,” says Belle. “Education is key." 

Belle also emphasises that, when telling your flatmates about your allergy, it’s important to make sure they’re aware of where your EpiPens are stored in case you ever need them to use them on you. It's vital that they know how they should respond and help if you have an allergic reaction around them, so have these conversations with them as soon as you can.

“You might have a reaction where you’re okay to tell somebody that you’ve had a reaction,” she says. “Or you might have a reaction where you’re not okay and it goes from zero to one hundred… in which case they need to know where your EpiPens are.”

Ultimately, Belle advises to “be careful”. Approaching student life with an allergy should always be taken seriously, but it doesn't have to be as scary an experience as it initially seems. If your flatmates are aware and understanding, and if you are careful to practice self-care and avoid your allergy’s triggers, there's no reason that an allergy should get in the way of you enjoying university to the full.

Co-op is committed to promoting healthy and allergy-free choices. Check out their Free From range here.

Students get 10% off at Co-op with a Totum or NUS extra card.

For more inspiration from Co-op throughout the year follow @coopukfood

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