Do you say Allergy instead of Autoimmune?
In certain situations, do you find that it’s easier to say you have an “allergy to gluten” instead of saying you have an “autoimmune disease”? There has been a big push on the Internet lately to say that celiac disease is an autoimmune disease and NOT an allergy. It is being tweeted and posted, and there are many memes. People seem to be getting quite worked up about it and seem to be putting down the people who continue to use “allergy”.
Don’t get me wrong … I KNOW that celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. When discussing it with friends or with people who express interest, I faithfully explain exactly what celiac disease is and how it affects my child, her intestines and her health. But it is not a 30-second conversation to explain exactly what happens to a body when you have an autoimmune disease. There are certain times when saying “allergy” just works.
Ordering at a restaurant is one of those times. I need the server to take my daughter’s health seriously, and I don’t feel that they will take it seriously unless I throw out that scary “allergy” word. Frankly the “allergy” word tends to get a strong, almost visible reaction from the servers in restaurants. I wish that we could say autoimmune disease and get the same reaction, but it just doesn’t happen.
At her school, she is also labeled an allergy student. The school’s teacher, nurse and principal all know about celiac disease and that it is an autoimmune disease. But they don’t have procedures for autoimmune diseases, and they DO have strict ones for allergy students. The procedures keep her safe, so why do I care what the label is?
So while I wish I could always say “autoimmune” and get a response, the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t always happen. So if I have to use the “allergy” word to keep my daughter safe, I am going to do it. The tweets and the posts and the memes that make me feel bad about it do not help. Let’s continue to educate about autoimmune diseases and celiac disease, but let’s also support everyone and understand sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to keep someone you love safe.