People usually have a lot of questions when they first learn about my allergy. Below is a handy list of frequently asked questions. I swear, even the most ridiculous questions on this list have been posed to me more than once.
1. “Oh, do you mean lactose intolerant?”
The number one most common misconception about a dairy allergy is that it’s the a synonym for lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance means you have problems digesting lactose, or milk sugar, because you are lacking an enzyme that aids in the digestion. Food allergies have to do with your immune system, a completely different part of the body! Reactions range for food allergies but can be as serious as anaphylaxis, or your throat closing up. I personally have an anaphylactic allergy but usually get a much less serious reaction from very slight exposure to dairy. I have felt an itch in my tongue and throat before from somebody stirring my coffee with a milky spoon. The misconception that someone who is allergic to dairy probably just gets a stomachache and could take a lactaid pill to make it all better is particularly annoying because it means people don’t take a potentially life-threatening allergy as seriously as they should.
2. “But that has mayonnaise/ egg. Isn’t that dairy?”
No! This misconception is twofold. People either think that mayonnaise has milk in it because it’s creamy, or they think eggs are dairy. Mayonnaise is actually just egg yolk and oil– very easy to make your own, but that’s a story for another post. I understand that it is white and creamy, so it’s not such a stretch. But no! I’m not allergic to mayo and yes, I would like that aioli on my burger please! I feel like I’ve been having this conversation so frequently with waiters lately, I guess aioli/ fancy mayo is having a moment right now.
The misconception that eggs are dairy is pretty widespread. I think it stems from eggs being in the dairy aisle at the supermarket. I can’t explain to you why the supermarket does that, but eggs don’t have milk in them, and therefore aren’t dairy!
3. “But… Can you have yogurt?”
Nope! Being allergic to milk means I can’t eat milk or anything with milk in it, including yogurt, butter, cheese, milk chocolate…
4. “There’s just a little bit of butter in this, is that ok?”
No amount of dairy is ok for someone with a serious allergy.
5. “Should I not eat dairy next to you?”
Unlike some serious nut allergies, with my allergy I can sit right next to someone or even smell buttery popcorn (a smell I don’t care for) without getting any reaction. This is because my allergy is not airborne.