Friday, February 14, 2014

Show some LOVE for people dealing with food allergies on Valentine’s Day

The first day of elementary school should be an exciting time for students and  their parents, unfortunately for the King family their daughter Amelie’s special day turned into a traumatic event that will be long remembered.  Like my daughter, Amelie is severely allergic to peanuts.  Her FIRST day of school ended early being sent home to her parents just after lunchtime with a face that looked like it had been used as a punching bag due to a food allergy reaction.  If there was any good news to the situation it was that Amelie had a somewhat mild reaction compared to what she could have had based upon her allergic diagnosis which may have included her throat swelling shut, cardiac arrest and organs shutting down from anaphylaxis shock…though looking at her picture from that day I don’t think many people would consider her reaction “mild”.

My own daughter went into anaphylaxis shock a few years when she was just 18 months old after eating some peanut butter which quickly became a very serious situation involving her face swelling up like Amelie’s but also her throat swelling shut resulting in a trip to the hospital where a great team of doctors and nurses in the emergency room saved her life.  Since that time, we’ve had to be very vigilant to protect our daughter from having another allergic reactions…it really isn’t as easy as some people think.  Preventing her from eating food with ingredients she can’t have is the EASY part…avoiding contamination from food that has been exposed to allergens while it is made or prepared or from residue that people have on them or may spill while eating something she is allergic too is the BIG challenge.

I didn’t realize until we had to deal with food allergies ourselves through our daughter’s diagnosis how much candy and food play a part in “celebrations” at schools, family functions, and community events for dates like Birthdays, Halloween, Christmas, and of course Valentine’s Day.   This year my daughter’s teacher invited parents to bake treats to bring in for the kids to have a Valentine’s Day Celebration.  I had to be the bad guy and complain saying that our doctor warned us not to let her eat treats baked at people’s homes that we didn’t know and could have potential contamination issues with allergens.  The teachers said instead of inconveniencing other parents they would give my daughter another treat we could bring ourselves.  That may seem OK until you take two things into consideration.

FIRST, treating a 5 year old girl different than her class mates can be very upsetting for her.  It also opens up the other kids to thinking of her differently which has contributed to what SCHOLASTIC MAGAZINE has reported is a growing trend of food allergy bullies at school.

SECOND, there is still a contamination issue in the class room from potential allergen exposure from contact with the other kids or spilled food.  When it comes to triggering an allergic reaction the cause can be microscopic in size and while the most common and dangerous exposure is through ingestion, reactions can also be triggered by inhalation or contact with the skin.

In the case of Amelie King a boy in her class was eating a bag of peanuts as a snack at lunch.  During recess he played with Amelie and the peanut oil on his hands transferred to her skin resulting in the reaction that occurred.  In another recent tragic case involving food allergies, 27 year old Chantel Giacalone from Metro Detroit, who had an allergic reaction while on vacation in Las Vegas with friends.  It appears that a scooper at an ice cream shop was contaminated from contact with a flavor other than the one she ordered with peanuts as an ingredient.  Chantel went into anaphylaxis shock resulting in her going into cardiac arrest twice until she could be stabilized.  This happened around Valentine’s Day in 2013, a year later this poor woman is still in a vegetative-state requiring around the clock care.

For parents with children who have food allergies, no matter what their age, you are always on edge waiting for an allergic reaction and always have to be vigilant in educating others to the seriousness of food allergies.  In my recent incident, after a lengthy “discussion” with school teachers and administrators, parents were asked not to bring in home baked snacks and instead could bring in prepackaged snacks that did not have food allergy warnings on them. 

If you child doesn’t have food allergies, please just keep into consideration that food allergies result in more than just a rash or sore throat and they can have a very severe and significant impact on a person who suffers with them; plus cause a lot of stress for their loved ones too, especially when dealing with young children.  Keeping in mind the spirit of the holiday, please show some love to people dealing with food allergies on this Valentines Day.  Take a moment to educate yourself on safety standards for people with food allergies and please be considerate when confronted with requests that you may think are inconvenient to your family but could save another family from a traumatic event like those suffered by Amelie King and Chantel Giacalone.

If you would like to learn more about the topic of food allergies, the Center For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has an excellent resources page:  

You can also visit the non-profit FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education at for information.

No comments:

Post a Comment