by Katie Madigan
May is a month where we celebrate teachers, nurses, moms, and awareness to a variety of issues. One of those issues is food allergies. May 11-17th has been designated Food Allergy Awareness Week by Food Allergy Research & Education, Inc. or FARE.
In 2011 my daughter Madeline was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening allergy to peanuts. We first discovered the potential allergy in 2010 after she ate a peanut butter M&M and immediately started asking for a drink and subsequently vomited. She has come to accept her allergy as she has grown, but would like others to consider the following. (Thoughts from Madeline are bolded. Her mom’s comments follow).
1. “Be more safer.”
It is important to check food labels several times to make sure they are safe for kids who may have allergies. Some foods may not show obvious allergens on the front of the package so it’s important to check and see if they “may contain (allergen).”
2. “Get cakes with no allergies.”
It’s really difficult to attend a birthday party when you have a food allergy! Madeline has really appreciated it when friends have let us know in advance what they may be serving at a party. That way we can pre-check the labels or stores and provide an alternative when needed.
3. “Always wash your hands.”
Washing hands with soap is the only truly effective way to get rid of an allergen. Hand sanitizer is not as effective.
4. “Allergies make you sick. Doesn’t mean you don’t like it.”
Sometimes people think kids are just avoiding eating certain foods. In reality, they may have the potential to go into anaphylactic shock, which can be deadly.
5. “If you’re my friend don’t bring peanut stuff in your lunch.”
Sometimes it’s hard to sit with your friends at lunch if you have an allergy. They may be required to sit at a special table where there are no allergens they could be exposed to. It feels good when friends take the time to ask their parents not to send things that might make their friends sick so that they can sit with them at lunch.
6. “I take my Epi-Pen everywhere I go.”
Epinephrine is the most effective treatment for anaphylaxis. Therefore, it is essential that people with food allergies take this medication everywhere. Sometimes they forget and need to be reminded, but it can save their lives.
7. “Epi-Pens are not a pen, they are shots.”
Even though it has the word pen in it, it is not something you can write with. Epi-pens (and other auto-injectors of Epinephrine) have needles with pre-loaded dosages of medicine. They require some training to use and have safety precautions embedded in them. They should still be used with caution and are not to be regarded as toys.
8. “I am just like other kids.”
The most important thing that Madeline wants you to know is that although she has this difference that she may have to live with for her entire life, she is still a kid. She enjoys treats, playing with her friends, and life in general. She isn’t about to let fear or her food allergy stop her from enjoying every day she has here on this earth!
Katie Madigan is a Speech-Language Pathologist, aspiring educational leader, and community volunteer. She is a member of the Management Team for the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana and loves this community she has adopted as her own. She shares her dream home in Urbana with her husband Jared, daughter Madeline, and dogs Scooter and Max.