May 9 – 15 is Food Allergy Awareness Week and is something that has become near and dear to my heart. My 2-year-old son was diagnosed with several food allergies as a baby. It’s an overwhelming diagnosis to get, and quite frankly, it has changed our family’s life in many ways. In a situation like this, knowledge is power. Learning the facts about food allergies can calm your anxiety and help keep your child safe.
Some Facts and Statistics
32 million Americans are currently living with food allergies. 1 child out of every 13 children has food allergies. So this averages out to about 2 kids per classroom. The 8 most common allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, fish, and shellfish. Every 3 minutes someone is sent to the emergency room for a food allergy reaction.
Food allergies are not the same as food intolerances. Allergic reactions can cause anything from a mild reaction, like hives or an upset stomach, to more severe reactions like anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can include symptoms such as widespread hives, vomiting, low blood pressure, trouble breathing, and loss of consciousness. Allergic reactions can progress from a mild reaction to anaphylaxis very quickly. Epinephrine is currently the only treatment for anaphylaxis. Because of this, TWO Epi-pens must be kept with the allergic person at all times.
Food Allergy Life is a Journey
Those experiencing a life living with food allergies know that it’s easy to get caught up in the difficulty of it all. There are so many new things to learn and the constant fear of having a reaction can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. It’s something I never imagined we would have to deal with.
Sometimes the weight of the situation hits me and I find myself wondering “how will we do this?” How will we protect our son while not holding him back? I wonder constantly how we will approach life when it seems like the world revolves around food Luca can’t eat. And then I realize we already are. It hasn’t been easy, but we have come a long way since that awful day almost 2 years ago. My family has experienced many setbacks and lots of disappointing news. But, we’ve also had triumphs. My son had made so many strides. Each small baby step we’ve taken in learning how to deal with food allergies and to get closer to a food allergy-free life should be recognized and celebrated.
This week is for US
For the families that buy that $6 pint of ice cream, because EVERY member of the family should be able to enjoy dessert.
For the parents who spend what feels like all day, every day in the kitchen making delicious and safe meals for their family, because their child cannot safely eat at a restaurant.
For the parents educating everyone in their lives and advocating day in and day out for their children.
For the moms, dads, and children who spend hours in the allergist’s office, hoping they leave safe, and with good news.
For the children who have to learn the hard way that life isn’t always fair. They are unstoppable despite their struggles.
For the parents who wonder every day how they’re going to do this food allergy life… and then realize, they already are.
This week is for you. This week is for bringing attention to the seriousness of food allergies and educating those who are fortunate enough to live without them. BUT, it should also be for celebrating. Let’s take this week to celebrate the steps forward we’ve made in our own homes, and the steps forward our world has made in research and education. And let’s celebrate how resilient our children are. These struggles will help shape them and they will be better for it. And hopefully, one day, we will be able to take this week to celebrate the END of food allergies.
For more information regarding food allergies, visit the FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) Website at https://www.foodallergy.org