May is Food Allergy Awareness Month, the perfect time to help educate your family, friends and the public at large on the dangers of food allergies and ways to decrease potential reactions. We have been dealing with food allergies in our family for ten years and our go-to resource has long been Food Allergy Canada (formerly Anaphylaxis Canada.) When it comes to food allergy awareness, there are many great ways you and your family can spread the word and get involved in this very worthwhile endeavor.
Before we check out some of the things you can do to get involved with spreading food allergy awareness, it is important to know and understand the facts. According to Food Allergy Canada:
“Food allergy is one of the leading causes of potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reactions and a public health concern in Canada, especially among children. Approximately 2.6 million Canadians are affected by food allergy and 1-in-2 Canadians know someone with a food allergy, indicating the broader impact of this condition on families across the country. As there is no way of predicting how severe an allergic reaction may be and no known cure for food allergy, avoiding the allergenic food is required to prevent a reaction.”
Check out some of the things that you can do to get involved this month with spreading food allergy awareness. Your participation could save lives.
The Give and Go Campaign
This is the advertising campaign that Food Allergy Canada is running and it focuses on the importance of giving epinephrine and calling 911 for help, whenever you or someone you know/see is having a severe allergic reaction. It is important to note that people can be allergic to more than just food. For example, now that it is spring and the flowers are starting to bloom we will start to see bees. Some people actually have a life-threatening allergy to bee stings and as such must carry an EpiPen (epinephrine) with them at all times.
There is only one medication that can reverse the symptoms of anaphylaxis and that is epinephrine. It must therefore be treated as life-saving medication and those with food allergies should carry it at all times. Canadian allergists advise that an epinephrine auto-injector should ALWAYS be used as the first line of treatment for anaphylaxis and that delaying it’s administration by using items like asthma inhalers or antihistamines first can be deadly. Epi first is what we have taught our son and the Give and Go Campaign hopes to teach you the same thing.
Shine a Light Bracelets
We actually gave out these cute rubber bracelets as non-food treats last Halloween, but you can buy, share and wear them at any time of the year. The teal bracelets glow in the dark so kids will love them. They share the message of food allergy awareness in a fun way and can help start a conversation. You can buy some now and start giving them out!
Online Mentorship for Kids
This is an 8-week program that is offered by Food Allergy Canada. It provides online support to children ages 7 to 15 years who have a food allergy and gives them a safe place to ask questions, learn strategies for managing their allergy and become more confident as they grow. The one-hour sessions are split up into two groups: Allergy Pals for ages 7-11 and Allergy Allies for ages 12-15.
Support Group Meetings
**The Family Fun Run in Sherwood Park, Alberta is being held on May 26th this year. Join Children with Food Allergies Alberta as they raise funds and food allergy awareness while having a great time on the race course!
**Join the Toronto Anaphylaxis Education Group (TAEG) on May 27th for their support group meeting. May’s topic is “Cake decorating for allergy safe treats – tips from the pros!”
**Join the Metro Vancouver Anaphylaxis Group on either May 29th or 30th, 2019 to meet other food allergy friends and their families. Enjoy learning from the presentations about “Gaining Confidence Managing Food Allergies” and “Communicating With Others About Food Allergies.”
**Join the Saskatoon Anaphylaxis Support Group on Facebook to learn about their meetings, when and where they are offered and to meet others in your area who deal with food allergies.
Webinars and Online Tutorials
Food Allergy Canada has access to many great online resources that are not only available during May, Food Allergy Awareness Month, but throughout the entire year. If you are the parents of a newly diagnosed child, it can be overwhelming at first. These Small Group Sessions (maximum of four participants) allow you to learn the facts you need to know and ask all the questions you have.
There is a great section that provides fantastic resources for parents and caregivers alike. This area is wonderful to refer to if you provide daycare services to a child with food allergies or take care of your grandchildren. Topics range from Educating Others and Special Needs to Field Trips, Taking the School Bus, Parties and more.
A favourite section of mine is the one that deals with the Emotional Impact food allergies have on children. As parents we want to protect our child and when they have a condition that can harm them, we have a tendency to overprotect. It is completely understandable, but what children with food allergies need is a good role model who will show them how to handle their allergy with courage and conviction, knowledge and know-how. This section can provide that support.
Spreading food allergy awareness doesn’t just have to involve a meeting or learning session. You can also try one of the following suggestions and make it more fun:
*Paint one fingernail teal and start a conversation about food allergies. Share your handiwork on social media and tag it with #allergyaware to keep it going.
*Host an allergy-friendly food drive at your school, church or community group. Provide a list of the top priority allergens so that those who donate will know what items to avoid.
*Have your school take the Allergy Awareness Challenge. Free downloadable resources are available for teachers to use and they include lesson plans, worksheets, posters, Power Point presentations and more. Get your friends and fellow students talking about food allergy awareness in a fun and upbeat manner!
*Take an AllergyAware.ca course! Theses 30-minute online course are free and can teach you the basics of food allergies, provide details on signs and symptoms to look for and what to do if someone has a reaction. Anyone can take these courses and at the end you will receive a Certificate of Completion to display.
*If you have a food allergy than you probably have a practice epinephrine auto-injector at home. These do not contain a needle or medication so they are prefect for teaching someone how to use an auto-injector. Bring it to work and share it with your co-workers or have your child share with their teacher and show the class how to use it.
As we progress into May those of us who have a loved one with a severe food allergy would like to extend an invitation to you. Take some time to check out the links I have shared above and learn how you can not only grow your own food allergy awareness, but share it with others. This food allergy mama thanks you.♥
Do you know anyone who has a food allergy? If so, what are they allergic to?
**If you would like to learn more about food allergies, check out some food allergy friendly recipes or just learn a little about our food allergy journey, check out the MapleMouseMama Food Allergy section. 🙂