I attended the FAAN conference in Chicago this past Saturday and I thought I'd share a few of the key points I learned.
First of all, I know that many of you could not attend and I want you to know that if you keep up with the FAAN newsletter and web sites, you already have a lot of the knowledge they shared at conference. FAAN is generous with their info online and in print, so don't feel bad if you couldn't be there personally.
That said, I found the most valuable part of the conference to be the parent/speakers who had firsthand knowledge of raising a child with food allergies. A former NY firefighter who now works with the government in Emergency Preparedness spoke about his 17-year-old son and how they coped with his food allergies. This was an interesting discussion--he recommended having a "Go Bag" filled with things your child needs, both food and medical, at all times in case of a natural disaster or emergency. This may be something we don't think about often, but we should--in Fargo, for example, there were recent flood evacuations. You never know--it helps to be ready.
A dad of a 19-year-old got up and talked about how his family dealt with this son's multiple food allergies. He was very entertaining and funny, but his message was comforting and clear: raising an FA child is just one more speed bump in the road of parenting. Parenting, he said, is always challenging, and this just happens to be the cards we were all dealt. Many of us wonder "why us?" when we get diagnosed, so this helped put it into perspective. Interestingly, he also said the most of the early resistance they received about FA was from their families and relatives. Many of you have written to me about that, so guess what: you're not alone there!
A mom of a grown, college-age son got up (I love that these were parents of "grown" kids--shows you that you and your child will make it through school) and she talked about dining out. Her advice: skip fried foods, sauces and desserts. Always communicate with managers and chefs at restaurants and for special occasions, plan ahead by talking to the restaurant in advance. One more thing: don't hesitate to leave if you are unsure of a restaurant. As she said, the food at the second restaurant will be a lot better than the food in the hospital vending machines if you get an accidental ingestion.
The best thing about the conference for me was lunchtime. Everyone I spoke with knew exactly where I was coming from and could share their own FA stories regarding school, relatives, friends and traveling.
It was an eye-opening experience and I appreciate FAAN for all that they do.