What if I told you there are two children in your child’s school class who have life threatening illnesses?1 Who face each day with the knowledge that they could wind up in the hospital? Whose parents live in fear of sending them out into public, because there is a risk their child may not come home?
What comes to mind?
Unless you are living this reality, I doubt food allergies crossed your mind. But this is the reality my family, and millions of other American families, are faced with every day1. While social distancing has provided a temporary reprieved from some of these concerns, we nonetheless face other hurdles in managing our children’s (or our own) health2.
Food allergies occur when the body mistakes a benign food substance as a threat (such as harmful bacteria or viruses) and launches an attack. While reactions may vary in severity, all food allergies are life threatening, regardless of reaction history3. When it comes to most life-threatening childhood conditions, there is wide scale support and sympathy. Yet food allergies are commonly met with skepticism, or even distain. Outcries against nut free school campuses, against parents who don’t allow their children to eat or even attend birthday parties, all because of misunderstanding.
Perhaps you are one of the parents who has doubted those with food allergies. Perhaps you are reading this thinking “She is really milking this food allergy thing. What a drama queen!”. I’m sure you didn’t do so out of malice.
But none of the doubt changes the fact that my child had a life-threatening reaction on Christmas Eve to their grandmother’s lip gloss. We spent the evening in the emergency room. My mother gave my little one a peck on the cheek while wearing a lip gloss that didn’t contain my child’s allergen in the ingredients. It turns out it was cross contaminated (which is the colloquial term for what is more accurately described as cross-contact, since the two are actual distinct things)4 with sesame oil, and we had no idea. These are the worries food allergy parents have. If my child inadvertently touches, or is touched by, something containing even a miniscule amount of the food protein, they could wind up in the hospital. Or worse. Those managing airborne sensitive allergies have even more to worry about. We aren’t being over sensitive. This is a life or death battle, every single day, until we find a cure.
It is clear we have a long way to go in terms of educating the public about these conditions. Therefore, Food Allergy Awareness week5 (which runs from May 10th-May 16th, 2020) is a vitally important time for me, my family, and others facing food allergies. I hope you will join us in supporting awareness and providing hope for those managing these conditions.
Interested in learning more about managing food allergies? I’ll be sharing more exclusive tips and tricks for Mama Needs a Cocktail. Or, check out my Food Allergy resource page6 on The Mindfully Scientific Mama.
Thanks, Erin! Your insight is awesome!