Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Food Allergy Awareness Week: Small Gestures Add Up All Year

Is this your family's constant refrain? You are not alone!
This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week (and this month is Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month), so there are many activities being implemented to bring awareness and attention to the seriousness of life-threatening food allergies. These large gestures are wonderful and come about due to the dedication of parents, advocates and physicians who want to spread the word and make the world a more aware place for people suffering from life-threatening food allergies aka "anaphylaxis."

Before I go any further, in honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, I want to give a little PSA to all reading now. If you or your child suffer from allergies please remember to ALWAYS carry epinephrine at ALL TIMES. And always check foods, read labels and skip foods when you can't determine their safety. Being cautious of foods and carrying medications are the two best things you can do! I know I've said it many times, but this week especially, it's worth saying again.

While I love that there is a week especially devoted to the  cause of food allergy awareness, I think it's important to point out what I think most of us already know. If you are dealing with life-threatening food allergies every week is "food allergy awareness week." I'm going to guess that you are frequently telling others about allergies as you help your child (or yourself) navigate through a world in which a common food can be more than hazardous to your health -- it can be potentially lethal. This is a difficult concept for many people to get their minds around, so educating others about allergies is a continual process.

Recently, a food allergy awareness opportunity came about for me kind of unexpectedly. My daughter was in a school play and had a lead, so as part of the party-planning committee I ordered specialty cakes from Nutphree's,  a local nut-free bakery, for the entire cast, with the play's theme as the decoration. Nutphree's outdid themselves -- the cakes were the talk of the party and dozens of kids took pictures of the cakes. A lot of people saw the "Nutphree's" logo on the cake boxes and asked me about the bakery, food allergies and how we manage them. One of the volunteers was a pediatrician in our area and he thought it was great -- so many of his patients now have nut allergies, he said. It was great to spread the food allergy awareness this way. (And it didn't hurt that the cakes looked beautiful and tasted great -- they were a wonderful conversation piece.) See below.

Isn't this gorgeous? We had a cake with yellow frosting and red accents, too.
The dice were edible and much-coveted by cast members.
My point is: Any time you tell others about life with food allergies, you are making an impact. Think about it. For example:

Did you speak to a restaurant staff member about allergies recently? How about a family friend? Did you provide treats for a play date or steer a parent towards an appropriate snack due to allergies?

Did you have to turn down an invitation to an ice cream shop or a bakery because of cross-contact risk? Did you have to refuse any food -- and did you politely explain why?

Did you speak to a teacher or another parent in your classroom about cutting down on food allergy risk? Maybe you baked a treat for a get-together and substituted an ingredient (like SunButter for peanut butter) and explained to someone why you had to do that?

Did you see a label change on a food (for better or worse)? That's because of customers (like you and me) calling with questions. Or maybe a restaurant you frequent began putting a note on the menu, i.e. "Tell your server about any food allergies." That stems from people speaking up about allergies.

If you  have made a special effort to educate others this week regarding life-threatening food allergies, kudos to you and thank you! It does help. As we all know, it can be a lot of work to navigate life with allergies, so whatever you have done, large or small, remember it does all add up. Every gesture and every interaction makes a difference.

For more on navigating live with nut allergies, click this link for my nut allergy parenting guide, a concise and encouraging approach for dealing with the newbie to nut allergy lifestyle.

I also encourage you to check out a virtual event on Twitter, hosted by the wonderful Jennifer B of the blog Food Allergy Buzz. This Friday, May 16th, to culminate Food Allergy Awareness Week, is a Twitter gathering to help raise awareness. Last year "food allergy" was "trending" on Twitter due to this gathering -- no easy feat. Click here for details about joining the event.

What about you? How do you promote food allergy awareness in your everyday life?


Unknown said...

Great and informative post. Thank you!

Amy said...

This week I decided to start my own blog to help with awareness, keep track of what I'm learning, and hopefully help others who need the information too :) We just found out our two year old has a contact allergy to coconut, which is in everything from his toothpaste to his chewable vitamins. It's very overwhelming.