Please Understand the Seriousness of Food Allergies for Children Like Mine
People are dying from food allergies.
Kids are being bullied about food allergies.
A kid died last week from possible food allergy bullying.
People are being removed from planes due to food allergies.
People are being discriminated against due to food allergies.
Your child can develop food allergies.
You can develop food allergies.
Is that the only point at which you will care?
Is that the only way you will wake up and finally listen to our pleas?
My son developed food allergies to nuts when he was 4 years old. I found out after he took a bite of a brownie topped with pecans. He immediately vomited and got hives and eczema rashes on his body and was rushed to the ER. He never had them before that day. He is 6 now, and will always have them.
Our lives are very different now. I must consider all of the possible things that may harm him on a daily basis. Things that don’t just involve food. Things like shampoos, lotions, mulch, art/science experiments and dentist appointments.
It is an overwhelming task at times because there is so much to learn and I often think, what if I make a mistake?
A mistake that could cost him his life?
Can you imagine the heavy burden that is to carry?
The answer is no. You have no possible idea. Until it happens to you.
And it may. One out of 13 kids has food allergies. One of these kids could be yours.
My son cannot eat at an ice cream shop. He cannot eat at a bakery. In fact, he has never been to a bakery. He cannot go to a majority of restaurants. He cannot eat anything at his friend’s birthday parties. He has to sit at the end of the lunch table at school, separated from his closest friends. He has to avoid nut filled baseball games and nut filled airplanes. He can only eat what I cook for him, or what products I have researched painstakingly to be safe.
He has to live with the fear of dying from eating the wrong thing on a daily basis.
We must all eat. We are constantly surrounded by food. Food is a part of every celebration, it is meant to be joyful.
But, for many with food allergies it is not completely joyful. It is joy mixed with some sadness, fear and anxiety. You cannot eat what you want. You cannot eat where you want. You must plan your life, career and vacation time around your food allergies.
Unless you are surrounded by people who care, people who make sure the allergen that can kill you is not nearby or in your food, you may feel scared and let down.
Let down by a society that thinks it is OK to joke about life-threatening food allergies. A society who often gets the facts or information about food allergies wrong. A society where online bullying or in-person bullying by adults, often leads to children bullying other children about food allergies.
Every nasty or uncompassionate comment you make, or action you take, may be seen or heard by your children or other children. Children who may then think it’s OK to make fun of the kid at school with milk, wheat or nut allergies, or to throw nuts at the food allergy kid on the bus, or to smear peanut butter all over the doors or local playground (which happened in my community in Virginia).
Kids are like sponges. They soak up a lot of information on a daily basis. Why not try to make the information factual and full of good intent? Especially when that information can be used to harm others.
That information is being used to harm others. Many children don’t realize their actions in bullying can lead to hospitalization or death, as is the case with food allergies. Throwing an allergen at a kid, or wiping it on a surface they will touch, or giving them something to eat you know has their allergen, can injure or kill a child and lead to expulsion or criminal charges. Such as the case of Karan Cheema who died at 13 years old last week in London. Another 13 year old boy was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. The case is currently under investigation.
Everyone who deals with, influences or has children, must make sure they know food allergies can be fatal and are no laughing matter. They must be told auto-injectors do not always stop anaphylaxis, especially if there is a delay in administering the life-saving medication. They must provide them with the proper information, such as Food Allergy Research and Education.
This includes teachers, principals, coaches, doctors, priests, daycare providers, and the media and entertainment industry.
What kind of example does a person set when they joke about or bully someone (online or in person) due to food allergies?
Do they realize they can be putting someone’s life in jeopardy? Do they realize they are bullying someone with a hidden disability? A disability they were either born with or developed through no fault of their own?
It is not OK to bully or harm people with disabilities. It is not OK to bully or harm anyone.
My plea is for anyone who has food allergies, who has children, who influences children or who has any type of media platform. Please, use your knowledge, words, actions and celebrity status to teach others, and to help those with food allergies lead an enriched, safer life.
If you have food allergies, talk about it. Let everyone know the facts and how they can help.
If you know someone with food allergies, discuss it, and let them know you care and want to assist them in any way you can.
If you have a bigger platform, use it. Let others know you have food allergies too and talk about the dangers of food allergy bullying and misinformation. Spread awareness in a way that most of us without fans or followers cannot.
If all of us come together to help those with food allergies, it will make a huge difference.
It will save lives, it will stop the sad cries. The cries of the children who are being bullied or excluded. The cries of the millions of food allergy parents who want to be seen, heard and understood.
The cries of the parents who want their children to be happy and survive a life with food allergies.
Parents like me, who want our kids to live in a better, more compassionate world.
It all starts with you. It all starts with what you do or say. What you project onto others. What you put out into the world. What difference you want to make.
Won’t you please help us?
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