For as long as I can remember as a little girl, I have lived with the burden of food allergies. Exposure to nuts and shellfish could send me to the hospital, gasping for air. The fear is real; it always has been and will continue to be a daily reality. When you suffer from extreme food allergies like I do, it is hard to trust restaurants, waiters, school cafeterias and even food packaging labels. This fear and lack of trust will remain with me like the memories of fighting for my life as each attack became worse.
As a public figure and advocate for children, I feel it is my duty to help give a voice to those suffering with similar food allergy issues, so they don’t have to grow up with that same fear instilled in them. Children with these allergies should have a safe place where they don’t have to worry if their lunch mate has brought a peanut butter sandwich in or if the school lunch they are eating has been cooked in peanut oil. Children should be free and open to learning and experiencing and experiencing new things, school, is a place to cultivate their learning and a safe haven from the world.
A child should not have to worry about how close their inhaler or epi-pen is to their lunch tray or even if they might die while trying to retrieve it. Imagine being the parent (or perhaps you already are) of one of these children. You live in that same constant fear, the inability to control the situation or to protect your child. You drop them off at school, hoping, praying other parents won’t forget and that fish/dairy won’t be the only option on the school menu. Having to teach your children that it is not rude to not accept a sweet gesture of sharing another’s lunch but merely a precaution to stay safe from what could be fatal.
I, as well as over fifteen million others, live with this raw reality of facts you’ve heard about. The fatal result of anaphylactic shock, the rise of peanut allergies and the knowledge that only eight foods account for 90 percent of food allergies. Eight simple foods, while three million children suffer from these allergies, 30,000 of them are brought to the emergency rooms as a result of exposure and 200 die—remember that exposure to anaphylaxis to death can occur within minutes.
Think of the weight of these numbers: 15 million children vs. eight foods. The value of life and well-being is immeasurable, but here we’re being presented with numbers to solidify something should be a natural human right. Work with me to protect the children, their health and most importantly, their lives, so that they can have a future.
Copywritten by Jo Frost