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What Allergy & Anaphylaxis parents want you to know

Sep 14, 2017 | All, Allergy & Anaphylaxis

This is a piece I recently wrote for Kiddipedia for Food Allergy Week. The feedback has been amazing & I am really hoping it changes attitudes & feelings towards allergy parents,

I didn’t start writing this article. I started writing a much different piece, asking you to please not be afraid to invite the kid with allergies & anaphylaxis to parties & sporting events. Explaining that us allergy parents have it all sorted & under control, that there will be no extra work for you because we come equipped with our own “safe foods”, Medication & Epipens.

But in the process of writing this I consulted my allergy & anaphylaxis community asking “What do you want people to know about living with allergy & anaphylaxis?” I was shocked at the outpouring of hearts that followed. So that’s when I pressed delete & started again.

Fun Fact: 1 in 10 Aussie kids will develop a food allergy. 1 in 10! Australia has the fastest growing allergy rate in the developed world & specialists & researchers are not sure why.
Yep, that’s right. They don’t know why.

But I can tell you one thing for an absolute fact. It is not the mother or fathers fault.

  • So here we go;
    Its not just about my child, I think about yours too!
    When the most serious of allergic reactions occurs (anaphylaxis) it can be very scary to watch. Trouble breathing, vomiting, collapse, diarrhea, swelling of the lips, eyes, tongue or face & in the most serious cases cardiac arrest. Now see this through your child’s eyes, watching their friend (my daughter) go through this. Now add in a teacher yelling at a child to go to the office & ask them to call an ambulance, the teacher grabbing the Epipen & giving it to my daughter. The teacher trying to reassure my daughter while she looks terrified about what’s happening that help is on the way. An ambulance arrives & they insert a cannula & give her more medication before rushing her off to hospital. Think about how traumatic it would be for a child to see their friend like this. I think about this, I think about your child & I NEVER, EVER want them to have to witness this.
    So if your school, daycare, sports ground etc bans a food, Im sure it was a decision that wasn’t made lightly. Please think of your child as well as mine when you make the decision about what you do with that information.
  • Having an Epipen does not make it ok.
    “what’s the big deal? If she accidentally eats some, just give her the epipen.” Thanks, random citizen but it doesn’t work like that. Epipen’s are issued to those who have been identified as having a life-threatening allergy. 
    Life. Threatening. The purpose of the Epipen is to keep her alive until she can get to hospital. This may not even be enough as more adrenaline can be needed in the ambulance & again at the hospital.
  • It’s not just NUTS!
    Just 8 foods cause 90% of all food reactions in Australia. The worst offenders are eggs, seafood, dairy, sesame, soy, wheat and then yes nuts. While there is a lot of education about nut allergy & avoiding nuts for us allergy parents it is much harder to educate about & avoid things like dairy, wheat & eggs. Take a look in your fridge, freezer & pantry at the ingredients list. The top 8 are in everything.
  • Could I have done things to avoid this?
    I lived on scrambled eggs & peanut butter on toast when I was pregnant. Surprise! My daughter has anaphylaxis to nuts & eggs. I know you mean well, but that article you read suggesting that I should have done XYZ to avoid my child developing an allergy, well next month there will be another article suggesting that I should have done ABC. We don’t know what causes allergies & we don’t know why the rate is increasing so rapidly. There are theories for now & that’s it. I beat myself up enough as it is, so please don’t join in.
  • Yes “a little bit” can hurt!
    “Just a little bit won’t hurt, surely”? Yes, yes it will. You see when you have an allergy or anaphylaxis (lets use food as an example here) there is a fault in the immune system that sees that “little bit” of egg or dairy as something it needs to attack with life threatening results.
    We avoid “little bits” so we can avoid hospital trips.
  • It’s not just at Birthday Parties, its every single minute, of every single day.
    I read labels like an FBI agent!
    Did you know eggs can be listed as albumin, albumen, lysozyme, ovalbumin & Surimi?
    Of course you didn’t, because unless you live in my world you don’t need to know how to look out for these variations. Label reading has become a second language to me (pity I can’t get a well-paying degree in it).
  • I’m not the fun police, a helicopter parent or a drama queen.
    But seriously could you blame me?
    You try having a child who has actually had anaphylaxis reactions in the past, life threatening people. Life threatening allergies. I think I’m actually doing pretty well at keeping it all together.
  • I love a chat so please, just ask.
    If you have any questions about my child’s or my allergies or anaphylaxis please just ask. I’m very approachable and always on for a chat. (unless I’m running late & my daughter has just announced she doesn’t have her lunch or excursion money due today). Education alleviates speculation, removes fear and creates awareness.
  • It’s not just kids!
    That’s right not all allergies will be outgrown and some allergies develop in Adulthood. If you have a friend, family member or work colleague who has anaphylaxis their condition is just as life threatening as that of a child.
  • Don’t be afraid to invite us to your party, sporting event or camps
    It can be very stressful, scary even to think that coming in contact with a food or substance could trigger a serious even fatal reaction. But don’t be afraid, we know how to manage our condition the same as people living with diabetes, asthma or epilepsy do. Plus we make awesome friends and who doesn’t need more friends?

May 14-20 is Food Allergy Week in Australia. 
So please Be Aware and Show you Care.
Follow the Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia campaign on social media. Paint 1 nail to symbolise the 1 in 10 children that will be diagnosed with a food allergy in Australia (like our picture up top) & start a conversation around food allergies today.
Dont forget to share your pictures on social media using the hashtag #allergyaware.