On May 8, 2016, the Empire State Building was, for the first time ever, lit in teal to bring public awareness to the effects of food allergies. (FARE has honored those with food allergies since 1989.) As the Food Allergies: React with Respectand an elementary school educator, I deal with food allergies almost every waking moment. For this reason this year’s theme, “Food Allergies: React with Respect” is extraordinarily meaningful to me.
I have heard many smart, well meaning people say some harsh things about those with food allergies. For example, some schools no longer allow food celebrations; parents automatically blame the families with food allergies. When I hear this my blood boils. Do people think my son, who is allergic to dairy, eggs, nuts and sesame does not want to celebrate with a cupcake or cake pop? Of course he does! He just has to be more careful than everyone else.
This year FARE has chosen the theme, “React with Respect.” What does it mean to React with Respect? It means understanding that everyone has different food allergies. Nuts and dairy have gotten a lot of air-time in the world for allergies. The reality is any food can be an allergen. I remember one of the first students I taught, some sixteen years ago, telling me she was allergic to strawberries. I doubted the validity of this claim until I saw her accidentally eat a strawberry and immediately get hives on her face. That was enough for me to know this was serious.
My oldest son is almost five years old and was diagnosed at six months with multiple food allergies. I was devastated but vowed from that day forward, that he would not miss out on life because of his allergies. Thankfully he has never needed to use his Epi Pen, but he knows we can’t leave the house without it. We are fortunate to have family and friends who are thoughtful and careful. Any and all people with food allergies want to be treated like anyone else, with respect.
What does it mean to you to React with Respect? Do you live or deal with food allergies on a regular basis?
*As this is a topic near and dear to me, I have linked in my previous posts to help those who would like resources for life with allergies.