Why I Choose to Boycott Peter Rabbit as a Food Allergy Mom

This weekend I saw a warning from Kids With Food Allergies, an organization I follow, to be aware of a very disturbing scene in Peter Rabbit that may upset kids with food allergies. They suggested we think about it and discuss it with our children before going to see the movie.

I for one was very grateful for this warning. We had planned on taking our 7 year old son to this movie in the near future. He is a wonderful little boy who happens to have a life-threatening food allergy to all nuts. He loves his pet bunny, who is ironically named Peanut, Easter and going to the movies, so this one was at the top of our go to movie list.

After reading the warning, I saw many parents of kids with food allergies discussing it on social media, and then a boycott arose. Soon the subject was all over print media, then on news programs such as Good Morning America.

I discussed the issue with my husband and we both decided it would be a good idea to join the boycott. We told my son about it, and how the movie contained a very scary and upsetting scene in which one of the characters was bullied and goes into anaphylaxis after blackberries are thrown at him. I told him that it is not the kind of movie we should go to because it may upset him, and because it encourages bullies and misinformation.

My son is young and has not yet experienced food allergy bullying, though I have while advocating for him. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) about one third of kids with food allergies have been bullied. I pray that he does not experience it, but know that the odds are he may. If the horrible comments I’ve been reading about people with food allergies online tell me anything, it tells me that many of these bullies grow up to be adults who continue to harass those with food allergies or other disabilities. These “adults” are influencing their children and through their actions may be raising future bullies.

We have to watch what we do and say in front of our children. They look up to us and model some of our behavior.

We have to be careful what we choose to put out into the world, through art, media or our own personal lives. We have to be careful what we let our children watch, and we have to be there to help educate them on what is right, what is wrong, and what is unnecessary.

The food allergy bullying scene in the movie Peter Rabbit is unnecessary, and it sends a very dangerous message to the young and impressionable. Food allergies are life-threatening and claim many lives, including that of Karanbir Cheema, who died after a classmate threw a piece of cheese into his mouth, despite knowing of his allergy. This tragedy is eerily similar to the scene in Peter Rabbit in which they are throwing blackberries at Mr. McGregor. So when people tell us that the boycott is ridiculous or for “snowflakes,” I say remember Karanbir, and those like him who have been killed or emotionally scarred by food allergy bullying. I say learn about empathy, and how to practice it. I say raise kinder children by being kind yourself.

Food allergies are very real and not a punchline. People in the media should work harder to educate themselves about food allergies, and not just use them as a lazy way of trying to get a laugh. A laugh at a disabled persons expense, for food allergies are now classified as a disability because they severely limit one or more major life activity such as eating, breathing, or going to school.

People are dying from food allergies, and are going to emergency rooms every three minutes due to them according to FARE. Epipens can save lives, but only if administered quickly and effectively. Epinephrine is never a sure thing, so education, preparation, advocacy and support are extremely important. The support of those around us and the media would be very beneficial, and may even save lives.

I stand with all who choose to boycott Peter Rabbit. It is a small step in the right direction that Sony Pictures issued an apology, but it is not enough. They should remove the scene from their movie, and they should spend some time educating themselves about food allergies and spreading awareness to the millions who follow them/see their pictures. They should realize they did real harm to our food allergy community, and work very hard to remedy the situation.

They have a magnified voice. They should use it to denounce bullying of all kinds. They should use it to support those with food allergies and other disabilities. They should continue to speak out before the next bully uses this movie as a means to hurt their next target.

For all the parents who may roll their eyes at this boycott, I hope you never have a child who is bullied for who they are, or whatever disability they may have. I hope that your children do not develop food allergies, though they may since one out of thirteen children have them now.

Until your child suffers from a life-threatening allergic reaction, you will never understand how we feel. Until you see your child gasping for breath, not knowing if it will be their last, you will never understand. Until you send your young child to school surrounded by food that could kill them, you will never understand.

We are fighting battles to protect our children with food allergies on a daily basis. We are educating them and helping them to learn and grow, survive and thrive.

So you can become an advocate, a supporter/protector of children, or you can become another angry online bully who will never understand that this boycott is not just about a little bunny movie.

It is about loving our children, showing compassion, teaching our kids that no one deserves to be bullied, bringing awareness to life-threatening disabilities and so much more.

It is about making sure our little ones come hopping down the bunny trail safely each day to the ones they love.

Kathy ❤

Nuts About My Son

 

 

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Ten Things Moms Of Kids With Food Allergies Are Doing On New Year’s Eve

My how quickly time flies. The new year is upon us, as we all sit back and reflect upon what we have gained, lost and learned during the last year.

Many of us in the food allergy community have gained new friends, new experiences and some great memories. We will treasure each one, as we move on to another year.

Our food allergy community has lost some wonderful children and people in 2017. We will not forget them, and will do what we can to help their families honor them and spread awareness.

We have walked in a Food Allergy Research & Education walk to raise money, we have done much research and made many phone calls, we have learned about some new products to try,  and some new advances in food allergy research. We have gained some humanity through our struggles, we long to pass on our knowledge and to help others. We are determined, and we are hopeful.

Here is a list of some of the things we may be doing on New Year’s Eve:

1. Planning a fun night for our kids, whether it’s at a party or at home. If we plan on attending a party we will most likely bring our own allergen free food/drinks to ensure our children are safe. We always make safe Shirley Temples with lemon-lime soda or ginger ale and melted Luigi’s Cherry Ices, which are nut free. We also make some appetizers like homemade pizza, pigs in a blanket or crackers and cheese. We make either homemade black and white cookies or brownies. The snacks are delicious and we toast the new year with our party hats on and lots of smiles, as we continue the tradition of watching Dick Clarks New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

2. If we are hosting our own party we will do whatever we can to be inclusive. We will find out beforehand if any of our guests, especially the children, have any special or dietary needs or allergies. We will change our menu, music, lighting, plans in order to accommodate and include everyone. We want all guests to feel welcome and safe. If we are attending a party, we watch our children like a hawk. We make sure that they only eat what we bring for them, or what we know is allergy friendly. This is something we have practiced often during the year and they must learn this rule at an early age. Mistakes happen though, so we must clutch our epinephrine injectors and stay close to our children. We must do this until they are old enough to keep themselves secure and make informed decisions. If there happens to be a rude party guest who has no concerns for our child’s safety, we must be prepared to leave.

3. Relaxing at a vacation destination such as Walt Disney World, Marriott or Hershey Park Resorts where they have extensive training in how to keep guests with food allergies safe. When we go there we can all have a wonderful time, not have to worry about cooking, and let our kids dine out and enjoy their beautiful surroundings.

4. Trying to spread food allergy awareness to our family, neighbors and friends. Education is key in getting others to understand food allergies and become advocates not adversaries. Some topics like cross-contamination are confusing, but we can keep them informed and answer any questions they may have.

5. Checking out social media when we have a quick moment or two. We try to see if there is any food allergy news or updates. We share and pass on any knowledge to others. The more awareness the better. It helps to save lives.

6. Saying thank you to anyone who has helped keep our children protected over the past year. The support of family, friends, teachers, organizations and caregivers should never go unnoticed, and New Year’s Eve is a great time to thank those we may have forgotten over the holidays.

7. Thinking about goals for the New Year. How can we teach more people about food allergies? How can we relay the message that food allergies are life-threatening and not a joke? What more can we do to help keep our children safe from an anaphylactic reaction? What are some things we can teach them this year about how to keep themselves safe?

8. Spending time with the ones you love. Let them know how much you cherish them. Listen closely to their hopes and dreams. Help them realize them. Make plans for the future.

9. Thinking of the ways in which you can make the world a better place for those with special needs or disabilities. What good deeds can you do? How can you be a good role model to your kids? How can you show them that any type of bullying is wrong, including food allergy bullying? Teach them to respect others and treat them how they would like to be treated. Help them project the love they feel inside into the world.

10. Counting our blessings. We are so grateful that we have managed to keep our children with food allergies alive and thriving for another year. We may have made a few mistakes, or had a few close calls, but we will kiss their precious cheeks tonight with the knowledge of what we could have lost weighing heavily on our minds.

Thank you so much to anyone who has taught me and my child how to live safely with food allergies including No Nuts Moms Group, Allergic Living, FARE, FAACT, and Kids with Food Allergies Foundation. Thank you to The Mighty and Scary Mommy for publishing my blogs which spread more awareness. Thank you to the whole food allergy community and to the disability community, and all who support and love them. We would not be here without you.

We love you.

And whatever you are doing on New Year’s Eve, we hope you will be surrounded by the ones you love, and we hope you have a wonderful year ahead!

 

Kathy ❤

Nuts About My Son/Poetologie

 

A Fountain Of Truth: Life With Food Allergies

It’s a warm day in December. The icy winds of last week are no more, as sun and sixty degrees greet us. We drive to MOD Pizza, one of the few restaurants in our area in which my nut allergic son can eat at safely.

I grab a booth and admire the industrial but cozy decor of the eatery, as my husband orders small pizzas for all of us.

MOD pizza inside stools

He grabs some delicious Boylan Soda Pop, Cream Soda for me, Root Beer for him, and Black Cherry for my daughter. I watch my son, whose allergy to all nuts and Stevia greatly limits what he can drink, look at us with envy. He asks if he can please just smell my cream soda because it looks so good, though he knows he cannot have a sip because most drinks are unsafe for him. He says that he likes how it smells and wishes he can have some.

Boylan bottling co bottle black cherry

I take out an apple juice box which he drinks all day every day. I see him sigh as he takes another sip, while he watches us savor our sweet beverages. I feel a huge wave of guilt wash over me and wish I had ordered a different drink.

I can understand how my son feels a bit as I have a severe allergy to shellfish. His nut allergy is much more limiting though, and much more difficult to manage as nuts are in an unbelievable amount of food/beverages/desserts/art supplies/hygiene products.

I did not become allergic until I was 28 years old. I had a whole childhood and many years of being free to explore the wonder of trying new foods, restaurants, bagel shops, bakeries, delis and ice cream parlors. The fun I used to have at Farrell’s and Carvel. Chocolate Egg Creams in Queens, boardwalk sausage and peppers in Seaside Heights. The joy of walking into the old Buda Bakery in Staten Island. Riding bikes to buy candy at the local deli for 25 cents. The smell of the local diner, pizzeria, Nathan’s or Rustler Steakhouse. Great childhood memories. A feeling of wonder and endless unencumbered possibilities that he will never truly know.

Buda Bakery - SI Advance photo

My son will never know that feeling since he had life-threatening food allergies since he was 4 years old. He cannot eat whatever and wherever he desires. In fact he can’t go to most food establishments. He must be careful about what he eats/drinks every single day of his life. He must learn to read every food label, and call many companies to see if their products are safe for him. He can never eat a food sample at Costco, or try anything unlabeled. He will have to learn to be a great cook/baker in order to experience many culinary pleasures that are mostly off-limits to him.

He can never let go, he can never be completely nonchalant around food/drinks, which are everywhere, if he wants to survive. He must learn to be as disciplined and in control as an army drill sergeant.

He will be left out of many school activities and not invited to many parties due to his disability. Many schools/restaurants/parents think that kids like him are not worth the effort of trying to change a few things around so he could be included safely. Many kids/parents will just roll their eyes and make nasty comments instead of trying to become more educated about food allergies.

Society is often very cruel to those who suffer from food allergies.

All of this flashes through my head as I take my last sip of my soda pop. I wish things could be easier for him.  I wish he didn’t have to worry about a bite of food, or a sip of the wrong drink, killing him on a daily basis. I wish he could have a childhood as carefree as mine.

But he cannot, so we plan and we play. We set up rules and we pay. With hard work, research and practice I pray he will have a full and happy life.

The next morning he reminds me to call Boylan Bottling Company to see if their soda is safe for him. I am greeted by a super nice representative on the phone. She happily informs me that their sodas do not contain any nuts. I await her response to see if they use Stevia in their sodas.

Stevia is used in many diet products now. What many people do not know is that it is making many people ill as it has many side effects and can interact with certain medications. Anyone with a ragweed allergy has the potential to suffer an allergic reaction to it. That is what happened to my son. He had a very severe reaction, vomited profusely, and nearly passed out after drinking a Capri Sun with it newly added. I was terrified as I watched him, grasping my epipen and I thought about calling 911. I never heard of Stevia before his reaction, and now we avoid it like the plague.

The representative comes back on the line to give me the great news that they do not use Stevia, only pure cane sugar and sucralose in their diet sodas.

I am ecstatic now as I give my son the news. He demands a super high-five as he smiles from ear to ear. This is a big victory for us as he can now add something to a small list of things he can eat and drink. It is a happy day.

We are so grateful to any allergy friendly restaurant or company out there. Companies that care, and label their products well, help enrich the lives of those with food allergies.

We need more of them. I will find them for my son as they appear over the horizon. I will teach him to find them for himself.

As a child growing up in the seventies and eighties when food allergies were less prevalent, life was a fountain full of possibilities. Now as we come to grasp with my son’s food allergies, and the drip drip of reality, we will work everyday to open up the world to him, to give him a wonderful and safe childhood.

I do not own a Zoltar Speaks Fortune Teller machine, but I do hope that when he is big, that he looks back as fondly on his youthful adventures, friends and experiences as I do mine.

Big Zoltar tom hanks

Kathy ❤

Nuts About My Son

All photos are my own except:

  • Buda Bakery photo property of Staten Island Advance
  • Big photo property of 20th Century Fox.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids Are Dying From Food Allergies: This Is What We Fear, This Is Why We Fight.

This weeks tragic story of 3 year old Elijah Silvera both breaks my heart and terrifies me as a mom of a child with a severe food allergy. Elijah was given a grilled cheese sandwich at his Pre-K school in Harlem, NY even though the staff there was told about his life-threatening dairy allergy. Here is a clip from CBS News:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/newsus/health-department-closing-harlem-pre-k-after-3-year-old-dies/vi-BBEKBYD

This poor boy and his family. His death was preventable, and now his family must grieve for him for the rest of their lives. The Department of Health closed down The 7th Avenue Center for Family Services, which is where Elijah went to school, while they are investigating the incident.

Too many kids are dying from food allergies. I follow these stories closely due to my son’s and my own severe food allergies, so I know that they are very real, and happening too often. I will never forget these children, I will always carry them with me. Food allergies are not a joke or a fad, they are claiming lives.

Every time I hear about a death due to food allergies, I shed a tear, I get very anxious, I share the story, and I pray such a fate won’t await my son and I.

This is what we fear, this is why we cry, this is why we fight.

Many people don’t seem to be getting the message that food allergies can be deadly. Many people don’t realize that according to FARE, someone is being rushed to the emergency room every three minutes due to a food allergy reaction. Many people are either uninformed or do not care. They don’t want to be told what to do or what to eat. Many don’t care that many children are dying from this hidden disability.

I hear and see people’s callous remarks all the time. Remarks like “who are you to tell me what to feed my child?” or “are you going to try to ban every food at the school party?” or “why don’t you home-school your child.” or “why don’t you avoid restaurants and just eat every meal at home?” And the list goes on. The list that makes my blood boil. How can anyone be so cruel and inhumane? How can anyone not care that their actions or apathy can help lead to the death of a child?

Being the parent of a young child with food allergies is a difficult, full time job. One with no breaks, no room for error. Every parent makes mistakes, but if I let down my guard and make one- it could kill my child. My precious son, who will always be my baby.

IMG_1508

That reality is very hard to live with, but I do the best that I can to keep focused and to keep my son safe. I try to educate him and those around him as much as possible. I try to spread awareness through my blogs and social media.

I will do whatever I can to keep my kids and their friends safe. Their happiness and security is what is most important. If I have to make some changes, remove some foods, or wash my hands more due to an immune-compromised child I will. Whatever it takes.

That’s what good friends, neighbors, and communities do.

That’s what we all should do. Without the rolled eyes, snarky comments and selfish behavior.

If a child needs some extra help, let’s help them. If a child needs some food/clothes, let’s chip in and buy them. If a child cannot be near a certain food, let’s remove it and/or keep it away from them and take the necessary precautions such as hand-washing.

Let us be open to food allergy awareness and educate ourselves as to how to protect the one out of thirteen kids with food allergies. Learn the signs of a reaction, learn how to use an epinephrine auto-injector, learn how to be part of a team involved in keeping a child thriving.

It is good that the media is covering such heartbreaking stories. Maybe it will open a few people’s eyes. Maybe they will realize that their ignorance, nasty comments or actions can make them complicit in a young child’s death.

There is a long way to go though. Food allergies seem to be the one disability that it is still okay to make fun of. Many comedians and TV shows think it’s hysterical to see someone going into anaphylactic shock. As someone who went through it and almost died, I can tell you that it is not. Face swelling, rapid heartbeat, tongue swelling to the point of not being able to take a breath is not fun. It is terrifying and will haunt me and the millions who go through it for the rest of our lives.

So please stop joking about food allergies. Educate yourselves and others, spread food allergy awareness with your platforms. Believe a mom who tells you that a nut or other food can kill her child just as sure and quickly as poison.

And do something to help, not hurt those with food allergies.

I keep dreaming of the day where people don’t roll their eyes when they hear about a child like my son having food allergies. Where they selflessly offer to do something to help keep them unharmed out of sincere kindness/concern. Where they don’t think my son’s condition is a punchline.

It only takes a few small steps/changes to make a difference in the lives of children who have food allergies, and you may even help to save them. You may even help prevent them from being bullied or excluded.

Our world needs compassion now more than ever.

Help those in need. Help those with disabilities or life-threatening conditions.

Help prevent the next tragedy by teaching empathy to your children, and by practicing it yourself.

 

  • Here is the GoFundMe page set up for Elijah’s family:

https://www.gofundme.com/SayingGoodbyeToElijah

It’s Teal Love This Halloween

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one – John Lennon

You may have seen a few in your neighborhood or local craft store. You may have thought they were just a new fad or decorating trend. But they aren’t.

They are so much more.

Teal pumpkins have a significant and compassionate message. They signify inclusion for children with food allergies or intolerances. They signify teal love which is what a food allergy mom feels for her child, and what a community feels for the children in it. I dream of seeing teal pumpkins in every store, at every festival, on every block. I am a food allergy dreamer, and I will not stop dreaming, planning and blogging in order to make this world better and safer for my 6 year old son who has a life-threatening allergy to all nuts.

John Lennon writes “from this moment on I know, exactly where my life will go, seems that all I really was doing, was waiting for love.” My son brought so much love back into my life after suffering 5 miscarriages. I will protect him and show him all the teal love that I can, for as long as I can.

Teal is the color that was chosen for food allergy awareness. In 2012, Becky Basalone created the Teal Pumpkin Project as a way to spread this awareness in a positive way. She began painting pumpkins teal and handing out non food items, such as glow sticks or spider rings, on Halloween.

Her wonderful idea spread very quickly and was soon being promoted by Food Allergy Research and Education. FARE is an organization leading the way in regards to educating the public and funding research of food allergies.

When I got over the shock of my son’s food allergy diagnosis, I feared for his safety, and I feared that he would not be able to enjoy many of the things his peers did. I wondered about how family vacations would change. I wondered about holidays like Halloween.

I wanted him to continue our tradition of going trick or treating, but I knew that he could no longer eat the candy he received due to his life-threatening allergy to all nuts. The first year I put some gloves on him which matched his Super Mario costume, and I let him take some candy. As soon as we got home I put that candy away for donations to local groups, and I gave him a bag that I pre-filled with safe nut-free candy.

Mario & Luigi kids 2015

He didn’t know the difference, and I was glad that my efforts had paid off. Soon after that I learned about the Teal Pumpkin Project. I was so grateful that such a thing existed, and I felt very uplifted.

Each year as we go trick or treating, we see a few more teal pumpkins, and many more non-food bowls of toys, etc being offered. I explained to my son how amazing it is to see such caring people in our neighborhood, people who are going out of their way to see that he and other children like him are included on Halloween.

We participate by painting teal pumpkins each year, and by providing some non-food treats in a separate bowl to avoid cross-contamination by the nut-free candy in our other bowl. We also try to help spread the word by talking to friends and family, and via social media.

Ryan painting teal pumpkin at FARE walk

When I find out about simple projects or ideas that I can participate in to help children, I often join in. They often do not take up much time, and can mean the world to a child.

It doesn’t matter if such projects directly affect me or my family. It matters that we all can make a difference in other’s lives.

In fact we should.

It doesn’t take much to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project, and the little effort you put in can mean the world to a child with food allergies or intolerances.

These children often get excluded or bullied. Just because they have a life-threatening allergy to food. They would love to be allergen-free and be able to eat whatever they want, but they cannot. They learn to slowly accept their diagnosis and have to learn to function in this allergen filled world as they grow up. They cannot go to most bakeries, restaurants or ice cream shops. They shouldn’t have to give up their Halloween traditions as well.

We can all help them by providing a safe environment for them in which they can be included. If you have any questions, just ask their food allergy mom’s or families who will help you learn more.

All it takes is a few questions and a few meaningful acts to make a difference in these children’s lives.

So show some teal love this Halloween, and the world will be a much more boo-tiful place.

Just Imagine.

 

 

 

 

 

A Letter to My Child with Food Allergies New Teacher

Hello, it is so nice to meet you. My child had a nice summer, I hope you did too. He is a little nervous about starting the new school year, but is also excited for it to begin. He is smart, kind and has so much to learn about the world. He loves his older sister, video games and his pet hamster Zaychu.

I am glad that you will be teaching him so many new things. I am glad that you will be there for him. I want to thank you beforehand for all you will do for him. I appreciate all the sacrifices you sometimes have to make for children with food allergies like my son. I appreciate your patience, kindness and compassion.

I understand that it may be frustrating at times to have to change some things in order to protect my child. It may take more time for all the hand washing, lesson planning, and extra steps needed to make sure my child is not excluded. You may have to watch him a little more closely to make sure he isn’t having any reactions. I appreciate anything you will do to make sure he comes home to me safely each and every day.

I know that you are highly educated and trained to deal with many different situations and emergencies. I am grateful that you will be there if my child ever needs you. I am grateful that you will help to make him feel secure.

He has never been to a full day school. It will be difficult for him to be there all day away from the person who makes him feel the safest. Away from his food allergy mom. Away from the person who will do anything to protect him. The person who spends many hours in the day doing research, reading labels, and cooking things from scratch to ensure his safety. To ensure that he remains active, happy and included in a world full of his allergens. Allergens that can kill him.

Deep down he knows this. Deep down he is frustrated, angry and scared at this knowledge. He wishes he didn’t have food allergies, but accepts that he does. He is trying hard to learn some ways to be safe. He is being proactive in many ways, but often forgets things that I tell him. He is only 6 years old and has a long way to go and a lot to learn. But he is doing a great job, and I am so proud of him.

I hope that we will have a very good relationship. I hope that you don’t see me as another food allergy mom, but as a loving mother who fears for her child’s safety when he is away. It is really hard to live with the fact that a tiny amount of food can kill your child. Your child who eats many times a day. Your child who takes a piece of your heart with him wherever he goes.

Including when he goes to school. So many innocent mistakes can happen there, I just want to try to make sure that they don’t.

I will do all that I can to help you, to answer any questions, and to make your job easier.

Just let me know what you need, any time day or night. Whether it’s more supplies, safe food for a celebration, or art supply research, I’ll be there.

A teacher lives.

A teacher loves.

With a heart as big as the sun.

A teacher gives.

A teacher breathes.

Dreams and hope into their little ones.

Thank you so much for being there for my child. Thank you for all you will do for him, and for being a teacher. Teachers are not thanked enough for all they do. They breathe hope into our little ones, and make the world a better place.

I love my son with all of my heart, and I’m sure he will work his magic and become a part of yours.

 

 

Ten Important Lessons I’ve Learned About Shellfish Allergies

This month I had two cross-contamination reactions to shellfish. They really scared me. They really opened my eyes.

I suffered a minor reaction to shellfish when I was 28 after dining on shrimp scampi in Santa Barbara. While walking back to my hotel room I felt tingly and itchy all over. I felt strange and dizzy and panicky. Something was not right. A coworker told me that it may be a food allergy reaction, and gave me some over the counter allergy medication. I never took that first reaction seriously, and I never followed up with a doctor. I just went on with my life.

That was a horrible mistake, one that almost cost me my life. That is a mistake that too many people are making. Too many people don’t take food allergy reactions earnestly, or think they will never happen again.

Later that year, while eating shrimp scampi once again, I went into anaphylactic shock and almost died. It happened very quickly, and thankfully a hospital was nearby. The staff there saved my life. I was so surprised by what happened because I had eaten shellfish my whole life, and I didn’t take into consideration my first minor reaction.

Since then I have carried my Epipens, but didn’t do more until my young son was diagnosed with food allergies. I realized that I had not been proactive enough in regard to my own food allergies, so I was more careful for awhile. But then I wasn’t. Life, illness and constantly worrying about my son got in the way.

I put all my time and energy into keeping my son safe, but I was not putting any energy into keeping myself safe. I have not done any new research, and I often forgot to tell food establishments about my allergy.

I thought just avoiding seafood restaurants was enough.

I was wrong.

One of my cross-contamination reactions happened while eating food from a local supermarket here in Virginia. The other happened while eating a Subway sandwich at Hershey Park in PA. My whole mouth tingled and burned, and the roof of my mouth swelled up. I felt weird and lethargic. I hadn’t had that feeling in over 20 years. The feeling of fear/panic/dread that I may be going into anaphylactic shock.

The feeling I will never forget.

The feeling that I never want to have again.

I clutched my Epipens both times and had my family with me. My husband watched me closely and was ready to call 911 if necessary. I was ok, but I learned some valuable lessons/tips that I want to share.

  1. Learn what foods are considered shellfish. I was completely shocked recently to learn that calamari (which is often fried in the same oil as french fries, mozzarella sticks, etc) is in the shellfish category. Some other kinds of shellfish are – prawns, crayfish (crawfish,) crabs, lobster, shrimp, oysters, scallops, clams, mussels, octopus, sea urchin, escargot (snails,) cockles, abalone, conch, periwinkles, whelk.
  2. According to FARE – “Approximately 60 percent of people with shellfish allergy experienced their first allergic reaction as adults.” This happened to me after eating shellfish for over 20 years. Please be careful because it can happen to you too.
  3. ALWAYS tell your servers that you have a shellfish allergy whether you are at a restaurant or sandwich shop. Make sure that they let the chef know and that they can safely accommodate you. Ask them if their establishments share fryers/grills with seafood.
  4. I also tell anyone who comes into contact with me that I have a shellfish allergy such as dentists, doctors, hairdressers, xray technicians, etc. You never know what ingredients are in products used to treat you.
  5. Avoid seafood restaurants, or maybe even most Asian or Thai ones. Their menus are full of shellfish or shellfish ingredients/spices/extracts/broths. I had a scare last year when I was given shrimp spring rolls instead of vegetarian ones. I ate one and had to stick my finger down my throat to vomit it out. This is not a good way to prevent anaphylaxis because it was ingested, but I did it anyway just in case it would help. I was okay, but have not eaten at an Asian restaurant since. Call or visit all restaurants to determine if they are food allergy friendly before dining at one.
  6. Avoid clambakes, oyster festivals, or any celebrations with seafood everywhere if you can. Just being around these events can produce reactions. Don’t handle/touch any shellfish.
  7. Avoid cooking areas where seafood is being prepared. According to FARE the proteins in the shellfish can become airborne. That is why it is best to avoid these areas since these proteins can produce a reaction in some.
  8. Read the whole menu at places, and be aware of any additions, such as the new seafood sensation sandwich at Subway. I had no idea that there was shellfish at Subway, and it was the source of one of the cross-contamination reactions I mentioned earlier.
  9. Read the labels/ingredients to anything you will consume every single time. Things/recipes/factories often change. While I was at my doctor’s office she offered me a vitamin supplement that had a shellfish warning on the bottom, as does many vitamins/supplements. I also avoid anything with Omega 3 Fatty Acids such as pre-natal pills with them. They made my heart skip beats and made me feel bad so I switched to a different kind, this is my own personal experience though, check with your doctor. My local grocery store chain has a shellfish warning on their fried chicken, and I had a reaction to some cut vegetables. I no longer buy anything they repackage/prepare in their store. There is too much risk for cross-contamination as they share equipment.
  10. BRING YOUR EPIPENS/AUTOINJECTORS WHEREVER YOU GO!! Whether you are on land, sea or in the air bring them! Keep them at room temperature always, and protect them in cases/insulated bags/waterproof pouches. You never know when you may need them, and they may just save your life some day.

Please check with your doctor or allergist for any medical advice. Get tested, do research and be prepared. There are more things containing shellfish or cross-contaminated with shellfish than you may realize. It is for that reason that I have also chosen to avoid all kinds of fish.

We are just like little fish swimming in a great big sea of food allergens.

Tread carefully, but don’t be afraid to live your life.

Kathy ❤

Nuts About My Son