November 15, 2016

Allergies In Kids: Why We Need to Take Them Seriously

Allergies in kids are out of control.  And for some reason, children who are born with or develop allergies are seen as weak, whiney babies, and many many people do not take them seriously.  teased, taunted, called names and sometimes, even bullied.

Trust me, no one is MAKING UP a story about not being able to eat a food.  As a foodie (who is allergic to dairy) I can tell you, it sucks.  Like, really sucks.  And no, I am not lactose intolerant.  I am actually allergic to one of the proteins in dairy.

But getting back to kids, I was watching My Big Fat Fabulous Life and the lead said something that made me take pause. Like, I literally paused my tv to reflect on what she said, “overweight people are the last group that it is openly okay to ridicule and discriminate against.”

While I do think that times are changing (I first wrote this post two years ago) and we are FINALLY seeing women of all shapes and sizes in magazines and commercials, it is still true.  Making fun of a fat person is still humor to many people.  And we can add in kids with allergies for some people.

Would you be mean to this baby just because she has an allergy?

You would never snark on a child who has Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, or other medical conditions, right? Or perhaps you would, sitting behind the safety of a computer screen, in comments on a blog or on facebook.  But for the sake of this post, I am going to assume that most people would not intentionally be mean, ridicule or make fun of a child, any child, who suffers from a medical condition beyond their control.

Allergies seem wussy.  They seem like you have some sort of flaw in your shield, like you just aren’t strong enough to deal with everyday life. You LOOK normal, but your immune system decides to go on overdrive after exposure to certain substances that are harmlss to most people.  Not only are they harmless, they are things that other people eat, foods they enjoy eating and may even be super healthy.  And that may make you seem…weak.

From Team AnaphylaxisPerhaps some people don’t believe allergies are “real.”  I learned from facebook comments on a recent article we shared about a boy being kicked off a flight because American Airlines refused to make an announcement asking passengers to forgo eating any items with peanuts for the duration of the flight.  Six hours of their life.  Though the family booked their flight through British Airways (who had NO problem making the announcement), and the family contacted the airlines ahead of time to let them know about their son’s severe allergy, the flight attendant REFUSED to do so. The captain had no problem making an announcement (which you can’t force people to comply with, but why not just make an announcement?!) After a passenger behind them opened a bag of nuts and the boy started hyperventilating, fearing anaphylactic shock, the flight attendant kicked THEM off the flight.

Have you ever had a bad experience before? Something scary, like a car accident, an ulcer flare, etc? Well if you are faced with the possibility of that happening again, it is natural to become very anxious and fearful.

Many people with allergies have to go through their life in constant fear, with anxiety that something they may touch or eat may sicken them or even poisen them to death.  How scary is that?  So why not alert other people to the condition? If you only brought nuts on a 6 hour flight to eat, well airlines have peanuts and I will gladly pay for another meal for you.  Or airlines create “buffer zones” around the person. But NOT AA, they are the only airline who refuses to help people with allergies in any way.

A few months ago, a similar situation happened on a Delta flight, and Delta has now updated it’s policies regarding passengers with allergies. But not AA, who has proudly proclaimed that they will NOT do so, and that’s that.

In the comments, people said things like, the parents have caused the boy to have a “mental illness” regarding his allergy, that flying isn’t a right and that the boy should NEVER fly.  They said it is ridiculous to ask someone not to eat a food for a few hours.  How dare anyone tell them what they can’t eat? What an inconvenience to them! Who cares if it could KILL a child, I MUST have my nut and I must have it now!

Seriously, if you can’t forgo one to two food items for a few hours for the sake of ensuring the safety of another person, there is something wrong with your sense of humanity, your sense of compassion and empathy.

In what world are we living in that a minor inconvenience to you should be ignored that can cause a major life-threatening emergency to someone else? Where is our sense of community? Our sense of decency? Or caring about others, and how our actions may impact their LIFE? Are we all so hamstrung in our own tiny bubbles that we can’t slightly alter our actions for the benefit of another person? Of a person who has NO choice in what can cause a severe medical emergency, an allergic reaction, that can result in death?I am a baby, and I have an allergy

I just don’t understand that.  Even before I had a daughter with allergies, I had this philosophy. Of course I would forgo eating something for a few hours for the sake of another person’s allergies.  Why is it that important that I eat something during that small window of time? A nut addiction?

Surely it can be done, smokers who fly on long-distance flights have to do without their puffs of tobacco. We give up many things to board a flight for the safety of everyone, namely knives, weapons, etc. Why not a nut?

But worse, why ridicule someone and make them feel like less of a person due to a medical condition? It’s not so much as the reaction of American Airlines to this child (which I of course thing was handled very poorly) but much more so the comments in articles about this topic that left me flabbergasted.

In the age of social media, of the selfie and the “me” culture, we seem to less care about the collective, about the needs of others, about community. No child asked to be born with an allergy. I personally blame the modern food system for the huge rise in allergies. Whether it is GMOs, Monsanto’s messing with the genome of seeds, chemicals, processing, you name it, there are many parts of the modern food ecosystem that may be to blame for so many of our children suffering from terrible allergies.

We as a community need to come together and support those children experiencing these issues and their families.  No, you can’t just use an Epi-Pen and be okay.  An Epi-Pen works for about 20 minutes, max.  Enough time to get to the hospital in the case of a severe reaction.  And according to my daughter’s allergist, 1 in 5 Epi-Pens fails.  That’s why they come in packs of two.

It’s time to end the fat-shaming of people with allergies and realize that not only can our actions hurt others, but our words can sting too.  Also, maybe we can end the fat-shaming too 🙂

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