So it’s officially here, food allergy awareness week 2016. I’m currently sitting in my office looking outside the window to my front yard, where I’ve placed a large food allergy awareness poster for everyone in the neighborhood to see.
As you all know, I am a food allergy family. And it was confirmed to still be the case last week at our allergist’s office when my daughter had a reaction to 1/3 of a peanut during an oral food challenge.
One of the greatest things about food allergy awareness week is it gets the conversations going about food allergies. I LOVE that statistics are being shared left and right to paint the picture of how many people are affected (15 million Americans, 1 in 13 children, etc.) Heck, even the Empire State Building was lit up teal last night in honor of this week!
It’s important that the conversation not just be about how MANY people are affected, but HOW they are affected. So in the spirit of awareness and conversation, here are some things I hope others learn/understand about food allergies beyond just the numbers:
1. It’s not a choice. We don’t know why our family has food allergies, and it’s something we have to manage diligently everyday. Don’t feel sorry for us, help advocate for us!
2. Food allergies can be life threatening and they’re a serious health issue, not simply an inconvenience—trace amounts of a food allergy protein can be deadly (not just via ingestion but also via skin contact and inhalation).
3. Food allergies require planning. We can’t be as spur of the moment, so outings with food allergy friends are easiest if planned ahead.
4. If we ask questions about your food multiple times it’s not because we don’t trust you, it’s just because there’s no room for error. It’s not personal; we have to do it to ensure safety. So we will likely ask to check every label.
5. Food allergies can be draining- mentally, emotionally and financially. We can’t let our guard down and our vigilance level is always in “on” mode. We want to experience the same events and activities as everyone else, but it’s not always easy to do so.
6. We’re not germ freaks if we ask you to wash your hands when you come into our house or after eating, or if you see us wiping down an airplane seat with disinfectant wipes. It’s simply that we are trying to keep allergen exposure (risk) to a minimum.
7. Activities don’t have to involve food to be fun. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy the people you love than the food? I’d rather omit something for my child’s friend so that he can be safely included in her birthday than have him not there at all.
8. Always feel free to ask questions. We will never get annoyed if you ask us a million questions about our allergies, we’d rather you want to understand than not ask!
9. We’re just parents doing what we have to do to keep our kids safe. Please realize we’re not trying to inconvenience you, and that we’d do the same for your child.
10. It helps to have a village and not feel like you’re isolated on an island—try your best to be their advocate to help them stay safe. And if you are part of someone’s village, God bless you. It’s not an easy task and you’re a very special person:)
Lastly, I leave you with some words by Dr. Seuss. Horton Hears a Who seems so appropriate during food allergy awareness week:)
Don’t give up! I believe in you all! A person’s a person, no matter how small! And you very small persons will not have to die if you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!
The mayor grabbed a tom-tom. He started to smack it. And, all over Who-ville, they whooped up a racket. They rattled tin kettles! They beat on brass pans, on garbage pail tops and old cranberry cans! They blew on bazookas and blasted great toots on clarinets, oom-pahs and boom-pahs and flutes! Great gusts of loud racket rang high through the air. They rattled and shook the whole sky!
When they got to the top, the lad cleared his throat and he shouted out, “Yopp!” And that Yopp... That one small extra Yopp put it over! Finally, at last! From that speck on that clover their voices were heard! They rang out clear and clean. And the elephant smiled. Do you see what I mean?... They’ve proved they ARE persons, no matter how small. And their whole world was saved by the Smallest of ALL.
Until next time,