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People are eating peanut butter (etc) at their desks - their desks are near/next to mine.

I haven't been able to find any UK legislation about this.

I've mentioned the allergy but haven't spelled out that I'd prefer if they stopped eating nuts at their desks. If I "nag" they WILL play practical jokes, they don't understand what its like and have said things like

"If it was me, I'd just keep eating the nuts until I was conditioned to them and immune"

EDIT: My Allergy is only mild so I won't die! Thank you for all the effort in answering! I was expecting a curt pointer towards legislation and a generic allergy answer rather than one customised to my situation.

Specifics (TLDR?):

I'm fortunate its only a mild allergy so I haven't had a seizure - I was hoping any legislative guidance would account for the severity. Symptoms from air depends on how much is in the air, I take my laptop and hide in a conference room for an hour or two as soon as I start to feel like it may lead to vomiting. When I come back the AC has mostly cleared it. I'm a bit embarrassed about asking people to stop; because I "won't die" people are usually offended if I ask them to alter their migrationary grazing habits

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closed as off-topic by Deer Hunter, CMW, Paul Brown, gnat, Jim G. Dec 11 '13 at 17:15

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What symptoms have you been getting as a result of them eating nuts at their desks? –  DJClayworth Dec 11 '13 at 14:20
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@clothsword - "I do not like the smell of nuts" is completely different that the smell of nuts causes me physical discomfort because of allergies. I would stress that you are not trying to stop them from eating all together just to avoid nuts since it sets off your allergies. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Dec 11 '13 at 15:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

"I've mentioned the allergy but haven't spelled out that I'd prefer if they stopped eating nuts at their desks"

That would be your first place to go. It's unrealistic that you expect people to miraculously deduce what you want from them if you don't tell them. Allergies range in severity from giving mild symptoms when the substance is consumed to severe symptoms from simply being near the substance. Since you haven't said anything they probably assume you have the former.

However you say that they have been eating nuts at their desks for a while, and you haven't mentioned what your physical symptoms have been as a result of this. Have there been any? If not, then why do you want them to stop? They aren't harming you, and it's again unrealistic to get them to stop doing something that isn't causing any harm.

If them eating nuts at their desks isn't harming you, but you are concerned that they might do something that does cause an allergic reaction, such as contaminate your desk after eating nuts, then explain to them what might trigger your allergy and ask them to be careful not to do it.

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I know there are times that it can take very little exposure for a peanut allergy to kill. However, your co-workers may not be aware of the problem.

What I would suggest doing is first going to your doctor and getting a medical assessment in writing of how at risk you are from people eating nuts near you. You may find you are less at risk than you think you are (schools tend to go overboard because children can't be relied on not to eat their peers peanut butter cookies, but as an adult that is not usually a problem) or you may find that you are more at risk than you think. If you have documentation of the problem, management is going to take you more seriously.

Then I would pull together some research material on the issue. Make sure to include some cases where the person died from the exposure. Make sure it talks bout how little exposure can cause a severe reaction. Create some materials that give specific directions on how to use the Epi-pen (and where you personally keep it at the office) if you have severe reaction and what medical steps to take. You want to first be able to educate them on the issue and what your medical needs are. Even if they don't stop eating the peanuts, you certainly should make sure they know where the Epi-pen is and how to use it in an emergency. So at a minimum, you need to present this information to your co-workers.

Then talk to your boss and ask him if you do a presentation of the research material, so your peers will know what to do to help avoid an emergency and how to deal with it if one occurrs. At this point you are not asking for anything except the chance to provide educational material about your condition to the others. At the end of the presentation, you could ask them what steps they think are appropriate to help protect your from the peanuts and give them a chance to eat them as well. As a group, you can come up with a solution. Once they understand the severity of the problem, they may be less likely to actually eat the peanuts near you.

Now this approach requires that you talk openly about your medical condition. However, if you want an accomodation (whether official or unofficial) from your workplace, you really have to do that.

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Employers in the UK have to make reasonable adjustments to the work place to accommodate disabities.

Having said that you would have to get medical advice/evidence that just the smell is going to cause an attack which from a quick google http://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/what-is-anaphylaxis/faqs#6 appears to be lacking. Your employer might just suggest that you take your lunch hour away from your desk.

I have a friend who is a school Governor ill ask him what his schools policy is on this and update my answer.

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You would also have to get your allergy classed as a disability, which is a long way from automatic. –  DJClayworth Dec 11 '13 at 20:33

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