Parents of children with food allergies live with certain challenges day in and day out. We read labels, ask questions, and are prepared for any emergency. And although we are adept at handling food-related obstacles, that doesn’t mean that the greater community is intentionally setting them up. In fact, in my experience, most people are well meaning but simply don’t know enough about food allergies. They want to be helpful, but don’t know how.
In the spirit of Food Allergy Action Month (May), let’s discuss some of the things you can do to help educate others about food allergies.
1. Put those expired autoinjectors to good use!
Now’s a great time to contact your school nurse, local EMTs and fire departments to see if they can use your expired epinephrine autoinjectors to train new personnel.
If you have food allergic teenager, it might also be a smart idea to get a bunch of his/her friends together, review the symptoms of anaphylaxis and demonstrate how to correctly use the autoinjectors by injecting one into an orange or grapefruit. This exercise safeguards your child when they are out with their friends and is good practice for you!
2. Offer to speak at a school.
Food allergy education is not typically part of the health curriculum for elementary school children despite the statistic that 2 children in every classroom have a diagnosed food allergy.
You don’t need to plan a whole afternoon’s worth of activities. Twenty to thirty minutes total usually does the trick. You’ll be surprised at the intelligent questions the kids have and how surprised they are when they realize what goes into a typical day with food allergies.
If you need a place to get started, I used this lesson plan and was thrilled with the enthusiastic participation that followed: https://shmallergy.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/food-allergy-education-allergy-shmallergys-4th-grade-lesson-plan/
3. Train camp counselors and lifeguards on how to properly use epinephrine autoinjectors.
Summer is coming and food isn’t the only trigger for an anaphylactic reaction. Think: bees. Contact your child’s camp and local pool and volunteer to teach their staff how to properly use an autoinjector, what else to do in case of severe allergic reaction and who to call.
4. Get involved!
If you’re looking to get even more involved, check out the below links for further information on fundraising, community outreach and advocacy:
Food Allergy Research Education (FARE)
Get Involved: http://www.foodallergy.org/get-involved
Asthma & Allergy Network
Community Volunteering: http://www.allergyasthmanetwork.org/outreach/community-volunteering-outreach-service-coordinators/
Take Action: http://www.allergyasthmanetwork.org/advocacy/take-action/
Knowledge about food allergies breeds tolerance and makes communities stronger. Getting involved is rewarding! Not only will you feel great about informing those who have no exposure to food allergies, but you’ll benefit from meeting other families who do. Take action this May!