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  • Tee Houghton

A student’s guide to school with allergies


The prospect of starting secondary school with allergies may seem daunting, or you may be pretty chilled out about the whole idea. Either way, you’ll probably encounter a few allergy-related challenges or worries throughout your secondary years and that’s okay as you won’t be alone!

I’m Tee and I live with multiple severe allergies and nearing the end of my secondary educational journey, I hope through sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned, I can help you to also guide your way through the school setting.


Create awareness on the first day


Whether your parents have already had a meeting with the school or if this is yet to happen, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to educate those around you about your allergies. Although statistically, there will be students with allergies at the school already, everyone’s allergies are unique. You may also find people wanting to know more, becoming intrigued - one way to break the ice!


If you have a more reserved personality (like myself), this may seem like a huge step to take, especially on the first day when everything is all new to you. I remember my first day in year 7 and the first ten minutes or so of each lesson we would use it to get to know our classmates through activities such as describing ourselves in a couple of sentences. If the opportunity arises and you feel comfortable, this would be a great way to casually slip your allergies in and make your classmates aware.




Be prepared for food-based rewards


No.2 on our list is being prepared for food-based rewards. Whether you’ve reached 100% attendance at the end of the term or produced an amazing piece of geography work, you may be rewarded with food such as chocolate or sweets. For those without allergies, this can be a nice treat and not something you’d think twice about accepting. For those with allergies, it may not be safe to even have them in the same room.

In this scenario, I would use it as an opportunity to remind the teacher of my allergies and if it contained my allergen, I would politely decline, but also thank the teacher nonetheless!


Remember - people will forget! It’s not that they don’t care, but because they are not personally affected by it. A little reminder can go a long way so don't be afraid to speak up!


Attendance is important, however…


Like I've mentioned above, your school may set up a reward system for students attaining 100% attendance and although it is proven those with good attendance achieve the greatest results, your health must always be the priority.

This isn’t to say if you have a lower than recommended attendance you can’t achieve just as well as your peers, I believe a lot relies on your determination and work ethic so if you have those, there’s no reason why you cannot excel despite missing a few days or weeks off school.

It took a while for me to understand the importance of putting my health first as I knew, especially in years 10 and above, that just a single day off can put me far behind everyone else and I’d be playing the taxing game of ‘catch-up’.

Even now, in year 13, I still find myself ignoring this message, only to go into school and shortly fall even more ill because I’ve turned a blind eye to what my body’s been telling me.


Know you are not alone


It may feel sometimes like nobody quite ‘gets it’, even the ones closest to you. This may make you feel alone, or leave you questioning yourself whether you’re managing everything correctly.

Finding people who understand and have allergies themselves, even if it’s just one person, can make a huge difference. The allergy community is such a supportive space and one I am proud and privileged to be a part of so if you find yourself at a dead-end, wanting to find a tribe who ‘get it’, check out the allergy community online on the main social platforms as well maybe popping along to an in-person event such as the Allergy & Free From Show to meet everyone in-person.




Be you

I would be lying to you if I said I’ve never had people use my allergies as a joke or throw questions at me, which let’s just say could have been phrased slightly better. Being someone who likes to keep things light-hearted and not take my allergies too seriously, I know when others are doing this too but also when it crosses the line to being disrespectful. There will be people who don’t want to understand or learn and these are the ones you’re best to keep your distance from. I’ve done this many times and sometimes still do now, and distancing yourself and ignoring them isn’t a sign of weakness or running away from the problem, it’s acknowledging that what they’re saying is not gospel, it’s not fact, and you’re refusing to let it define you. That, right there, is strength.


Thank you Clare for inviting me onto your blog and I hope it helps fellow students out there navigate their own educational journey with allergies.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Tee Houghton is an amazing allergy advocate, helping both children and adults navigate important life events with allergies. You can follow Tee on Instagram HERE


Tee has also designed and developed an amazing educational book for children to learn about allergies, clinically reviewed by Dr.Costa MD FRCPCH. Available to BUY from Tee's website.





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