This week is food allergy awareness week. It is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about food allergies and anaphylaxis, and help remove the isolation that can be associated with having an allergy.
Food allergies like many diagnosis in life have the ability to isolate, ONLY if we let it…
The first step in eliminating ignorance is to EDUCATE! So here it goes…
- 1 in every 13 children in America has a food allergy. That is two in every classroom!
- Food allergies can be life threatening and need to be taken seriously.
- Strict avoidance of the allergen is the ONLY way to prevent a reaction.
- 35% of children with allergies have been bullied due to their allergy. That. Is. Not. Okay. Bullying is NEVER okay!
- People can be allergic to ANYTHING! However, 90% of children are allergic to the top 8 allergens:
- Tree nuts (all nuts other than peanuts)
- Sesame (which still does not yet have to be labels on food packaging)
- The top 8 allergens must be labeled on packaging.
- However, more than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions.
The symptoms can range from mild to moderate ones like hives and stomach pain to severe ones like anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction). Reactions are NOT all the same. Symptoms can change from reaction to reaction. Just because someone didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction the first time, doesn’t mean they can’t the next. Also, just because you were not born with an allergy, does not mean you can not develop one.
* These facts are not to provoke fear, but instead to spark awareness and instill understanding. Once we have the facts, we combat the fear that tries to associate itself with it all … with faith.
“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”
Isaiah 43:1 NIV
What is important for us all to know?
Reactions DO NOT just happen when someone ingests the allergen itself.
They can happen due to cross contact (the presence of unintended allergens), inhaling it, and from saliva (sharing utensils, instruments, chapstick, drinks, kissing).
My son’s last reaction at the age of 2.5 was this type of reaction. He had tried a new oat milk and while the company did not have the container labeled for it, the production lines were not thoroughly cleaned from his other allergens. Thus, it caused a reaction that was less severe and very different from his initial one, but still needed epinephrine and a trip to the ER.
Cross contact issues and food allergies in general take diligence. Just because the product dues not have the cross contact information labeled doesn’t mean we don’t need to call the companies or do more researching and double checking on line. Also, even products that we have used for years, we still must double check their labels as companies sometimes change the makeup and ingredients in their products. It is not a burden; it is a way of life that ensures safety.
- Many of these people must carry EpiPens (Epinephrine) with them everywhere they go. It’s beneficial for everyone to know how to use an EpiPen. So reach out to someone who is trained in it and ask to learn. It does not take long to learn, but it also does not take long to react and need assistance. So spend the time now. It is greatly appreciated.
What can we all do? – nationwide initiatives to get involved with
Join the Teal Pumpkin Project
- Halloween can be a difficult time for those with allergies.
- This project promotes safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies.
How can you participate?
- Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters (see FARE website for suggestions)
- Place a teal pumpkin (the color of food allergy awareness) in front of your home to indicate you have non-food treats available
- Spread the word! Tell your families, friends and neighbors about this initiative.
- Check out the Snack Safely website.
- This is a site that has safe snacks and foods for those with allergies.
- Schools use this. We all should use this.
- When you are planning an event or party, check it out to ensure everyone is safe and included. It’s not always easy or convenient to “think outside of the box.” But, that’s often where the difference is made. What may seem small to one person is huge to another. “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
Turn It Teal
- Teal is the color that represents food allergy awareness.
- This initiative started in 2014 and now their mission has expanded into going throughout the country, lighting up buildings, bridges, and attractions in teal everywhere.
- You don’t need to light up a building to spread awareness. You can do this at your school, work or church, by setting a day in May to “turn it teal” and encourage everyone to wear teal! We are doing this at my work this Friday!
- For more information: Turn it Teal
What can we do? – ways to help everyday
- Wash your hands after eating.
- Wipe down surfaces after eating an allergen.
- Don’t share food or utensils.
- Get the specifics. Find out which foods your friends, family members, classmates, co workers, church members, etc. are allergic to and what the symptoms of a reaction are.
- Simply be aware and have an open mind to it. Empathy goes a long way.
- If hosting an event, ask what products and foods are safe.
- Take it seriously. It is not a joking matter.
Like with anything in life, listening wholeheartedly and empathetically goes a long way. So while our messy counter top may not have everything others have on it, we all deserve to feel included, safe and loved.
For more information, visit: FARE website
“Peace requires everyone to be in the circle – wholeness, inclusion.” – Isabel Allende
“When everyone is included, everyone wins.” – Jesse Jackson
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller