Did you know that food allergies now affects 1 in 13 children? Or that every 3 minutes, someone ends up in the ER due to a food allergy reaction?
I don’t think I’ve had a conversation about food allergies without someone in the party going “No one had food allergies when I was a kid!” It’s true, and I’m not that old. Food allergies have increased by 50% since 1997. Fifty! Percent!
A decade ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about handing a kid a peanut butter cup at a party.
A decade ago, I had no idea that “gluten-free” was even a thing.
A decade ago, I would have never considered that one could bake a cake without eggs and glorious, glorious butter.
Now I’m that mom who is painfully aware of the server’s eyeroll when I ask “Do you cook with peanut oil?” I get that this is a topic that those who are not affected may want to ignore. But, I think it would be awesome – as a society – if we were all open to increasing awareness about illnesses, plights, and diseases that affect so many of us. (We don’t need to get into politics here, but off the top of my head – autism, racism, Down syndrome, depression, the list goes on and on.)
So, the question: how can people help? Here’s a very, very preliminary guide:
Basics (all humans, do this, please):
* Don’t offer a snack to a child without clearing it with a parent first.
* Wash your hands after you eat/prep meals. You may not see remnants from your peanut butter sandwich on your hands, but if you hug my child, and it transfers to her skin, she’ll have a reaction.
* Ask what you can serve at a party/get-together. We count on bringing our own snacks, but we *love* when friends ask what the girls can eat. Fruit platter? You bet. Allergen-free snickerdoodles from Trader Joe’s? Yup.
Some Ideas for Teachers/Businesses/Coaches/Room Moms:
* Most kids aren’t allergic to stickers, erasers, little paper crowns that say You Go, Girl. (What? I don’t know.) I can’t tell you how many times someone has passed out candy as a reward or a treat and I’ve had to intercept and say “Sorry, they’re allergic to this.” Which, you know, wouldn’t be a big deal, if you want to get all gruff and mean and say “not all kids deserve a trophy” but if my kid did awesome at swim practice, and they’re passing out treats, she should get a treat, too, you know? (Hot tip for my fellow allergy moms and dads out there, we keep pre-made cupcakes in the freezer and a bunch of allergen-free lollipops stashed away for such an occasion.)
* If you run a restaurant or a bakery or an establishment where anyone eats, educate your staff on what has what. “Do the cookies contain nuts?” I don’t know. “Do you cook with peanut oil?” I don’t know. “Do you know why Pharrell hasn’t aged in three decades?” I DON’T KNOW.
As we advance in technology and awareness (seriously, cat GIFs go viral in like 30 seconds on Facebook; maybe we could spread the word about food allergy awareness), I hope we’re all (me included) open to hearing other people’s stories and growing in compassion, empathy, and understanding.
Paper crowns for everyone!