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Food Allergy Awareness Week: Did you know that food can kill?

Posted Feb 21 2011 1:36pm

No, it’s not really Food Allergy Awareness anywhere that I know of except here on my blog, but since it’s my blog I can do what I want right? Of course, right! I realized recently that even though this blog is not about food allergies (check out my other blog , When Food is Dangerous for that), it IS about food, and I happen to have first-hand experience dealing with food allergies.

I would imagine that each of you can think of at least one person you know of who deals with food allergies, even if you don’t personally have a food allergy. Maybe it’s a friend’s child, a friend of your child, a niece or nephew, a cousin, a teacher, a close friend, the list goes on and on. Food allergies affect a growing sector of the population and the circle of those affected is ever widening. The purpose of this Food Allergy Awareness Week is to help you understand what that person is going through and how you can help them.

And YES, food CAN kill, and it does.

This is the #1 problem food allergy sufferers face from those who don’t have allergies, so listen up! (I’m using my teacher voice because this is important!) Many people who have no personal experience with food allergies have no idea how serious they are or can be, and often assume that those with allergies are exaggerating/making it up/ making a mountain out of a mole hill/etc. They’re not.

If you haven’t watched the above video, please do so now. It will only take you a few seconds but perhaps it will help you understand the severity of food allergies and perhaps take them more seriously in the future. Oh, and one fact is wrong in the video. It’s not every 15 seconds, it’s every 3 seconds.

Here’s another video you might be interested in watching, featuring a lineup of children with food allergies and how it affects them. I have to be honest, it brought tears to my eyes because I know that in the very near future, my own child will be able to sit there and say the same things.

Food allergies are a heavy burden for children to bear. At the very least, it makes them feel excluded and isolated from their friends; at the worst, there is always the underlying fear that one day they could eat something they shouldn’t and die.

Right now, I have to carry that burden for my Certain Little Someone because he’s not quite old enough to understand and carry it for himself. Let me explain how it feels with a few scenarios:

  • We go to a casual family outing that centers around food (doesn’t every social gathering center around food?). Whether we’re eating out or in someone’s home, I have to pack food for my Certain Little Someone that is safe for him. If we’re eating out, I can’t even heat it up for him most of the time, so he has to eat it at room temp. If we’re eating at someone’s home, it’s a little easier, because I can heat it up in a microwave and even fix things myself for him. My extended family features a lot of little kids, which is tons of fun… but increases my stress level a hundredfold because other little children don’t understand the danger my son is in, and they aren’t yet capable of keeping their food off their hands and off the floor. And since my Certain Little Someone himself isn’t old enough to stay away from crumbs on the floor or his cousins’ milky hands or milky bottle, I have to watch him like a hawk to make sure he doesn’t have an accidental exposure to his allergens.
  • Last weekend, we went away for my grandfather’s memorial service. I had to pack canned foods (mostly beans!) for him to eat (although I realized later that all the hotels had refrigerators) on the trip, as well as snacks and his coconut milk. I only fed him the things that I brought for him, with the exception of a couple bags of Lay’s potato chips, which are safe for him. He still had 3 allergic reactions, one very serious. The last reaction was particularly frightening because this stupid mama had forgotten to bring his nebulizer on the trip, and of course, he started to wheeze. Thankfully, my brother and his wife came to the rescue because they had brought their daughter’s nebulizer (for her respiratory infection) and thankfully, it plugged into the cigarette lighter in the car so we could use it immediately. If it hadn’t been for that, we would have had to make a trip to the ER, which would be bad enough in and of itself, but on top of that, we were out-of-network and would have had to pay a LOT more for medical care, something we can’t exactly afford at the moment.
  • At Sunday School, my Certain Little Someone has to bring his own special snack. The other little kiddies get donut holes, but he gets the chocolate muffins I bring every week. For other snacks, his teachers have a list they can choose from. Sometimes all the kids get the same snack as he does, sometimes he’s the only one. Even at his tender age, he realizes that his snack is different from everyone else’s. And everyone loves to feel different when surrounded by their peers. Don’t you?

Thankfully, I haven’t yet (knock on wood!) had to use an epi-pen with my son, and I pray I never will. I have been blessed in that regard! But many other parents have had to inject their child with the epi-pen and then take a trip to the ER for follow-up medical care and evaluation.

So how does this affect you? Simple. Just understand that your friend or your child’s friend or your nephew or whoever you know with a food allergy has a very serious life-threatening condition. So when they do things that seem odd or even rude to you, reconsider: their life or their child’s life is at stake.

I will continue this series for the rest of the week, sharing more specific information about food allergies, and featuring some more specific ways you can help your friend or relative with food allergies, how to cooperate with them for their safety, and even some easy-allergen-free recipes.

Please do all food-allergic children a service, and share this post and proceeding series with everyone you know! The more people understand about food allergies, the safer our food-allergic children will be!

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