A three-year-old boy who attends a school in Oshawa, Ontario, spotted a delicious-looking candy on the floor of his classroom, and as three-year-olds often do, he scooped it up and ate it. That seemingly innocuous, typical little-kid decision nearly cost him his life because Emmett Huggard has a life-threatening peanut allergy.
This is why you have to stop lying about food allergies
We allergy parents send our kids off to school, hoping today's not the day our kids go into anaphylactic shock due to some mistake, so I can only imagine how shaken this student's parents are feeling. Emmett attends kindergarten in a school where nut and peanut products are banned, so how was it that this candy was on the floor of his classroom? I know the immediate reaction will be to accuse some parent of being negligent, but we don't know that that's the case. Just yesterday I found candy in my son's pocket that he had squirreled away after Halloween, and I like to think I'm fairly on top of pocket and backpack checks for just this reason.
It could have been a parent who figured it wouldn't hurt anyone. Or it could have just been a candy slipped into a kid's pocket. It's hard to say, but the fact is that this little boy had to be injected with an EpiPen to save his life after one little candy was consumed. Food allergies are very, very serious.
What it's like parenting a child with life-threatening allergies
The key to managing allergies - and to keeping people safe - is education. I know people are sick of hearing about food allergies. I read the comments on the our Facebook page when allergy articles are posted. At first I was angry that people could be so careless with someone else's life. At first I was enraged over comments like, "If eating a peanut can kill you, maybe you're meant to die", but now I realize that these things are spoken out of pure ignorance in the truest sense of the word. Most people don't have the capacity to empathize with something they feel is truly not their problem. But this is a problem for everyone because if someone inadvertently harms another child, they have to live with that too.
Just recently, a seven-year-old boy died of anaphylaxis, and every one of these stories is so painful to read. Food allergies are deadly. They're not just an inconvenience, they're something we wouldn't wish on anyone, but we have to live with daily. They're unpredictable, can appear out of the blue to absolutely anyone, and they kill in minutes.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record: I think we could all use a little practice with our empathy.
Image source: FreeImages.com
Big news, Disney fans! Mylan Inc. has partnered with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in a strategic alliance agreement to enhance access to EpiPen (epinephrine) and EpiPen Jr. (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors. Why is this such great news? Well, it means more safety, and more reassurance those at risk of anaphylaxis are safe.
As parents of a child with life-threatening allergies, we always - always - pack our epinephrine auto-injectors, but this extra layer of insurance is amazing. Not to mention that allergic reactions can happen at any time and be life-threatening even to those who have no prior history of reactions. So, much like defibrillators in public spaces, epinephrine auto-injectors "just in case" supplies can and do save lives.
From the press release (bold mine):
"PITTSBURGH, Nov. 7, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Mylan Inc. (Nasdaq: MYL) today announced it has signed a multi-year strategic alliance agreement with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to help increase awareness of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening (severe) allergic reaction. The agreement includes updated maps in Disney's domestic theme parks and on its cruise ships as well as updated signage in the parks that highlight locations with EpiPen® (epinephrine) and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors. Over time, the companies also will introduce a variety of educational resources designed to increase awareness of and preparedness for severe allergic reactions.
EpiPen® locations will roll out at Disney parks and on cruise ships beginning in late 2014. In addition to emergency medical services (EMS), nurses trained to administer EpiPen Auto-Injectors are available during First Aid station operating hours to assist guests experiencing a severe allergic reaction. To help guests identify EpiPen locations, Disney's guide maps will now include an EpiPen Auto-Injector symbol and new signage at First Aid stations.
"Mylan's mission is to provide the world's 7 billion people access to high quality medicine and set new standards in health care. In support of this mission, we are committed to enhancing access to EpiPen Auto-Injectors and to increasing awareness of anaphylaxis. Like life, severe allergic reactions are unpredictable, so people need to be prepared," said Mylan CEO Heather Bresch. "We are very proud to be working with Disney, which already has a strong reputation for meeting the needs of people managing severe allergies, and believe we can further raise awareness of anaphylaxis through this collaboration and our joint commitment to education."
Anaphylaxis is unpredictable, and can progress quickly and without warning. Clinical guidelines state that epinephrine is the first-line treatment when anaphylaxis occurs, making access critical. For those with a known risk, it is important to be prepared with an anaphylaxis action plan that includes 1) avoiding known allergens, 2) recognizing the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, 3) having immediate access to two epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPen Auto-Injector, and 4) seeking immediate emergency medical care should anaphylaxis occur.
"For our guests who live with severe allergies every day, identifying EpiPen locations is an additional tool they'll have for their anaphylaxis management plan," said Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "This new strategic alliance will help raise awareness of EpiPenlocations so that our Guests with severe allergies may have the best possible experience at our parks and on our cruise ships."
Families managing known severe allergies are encouraged to follow their individual anaphylaxis action plans and carry their epinephrine auto-injectors with them at all times."
I already absolutely adore Disney because of their commitment to keeping those with food allergies safe. It was at Walt Disney World that my son (then just months old) ate his first cookie and had his first taste of ice cream. He was allergic to dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, peanuts, fishes, and more, but Disney made magic happen for him. I will never forget the look on his face when he bit into a safe chocolate chip cookie for the first time. Honestly, it makes me tear up to this day.
We are heading on a Disney cruise this winter, and I have to admit that I was feeling very apprehensive. Despite knowing they can handle food preparation, traveling with an allergic person is always terrifying, so this news adds just gives me a little boost of confidence that everything's going to be alright.
Image Source: Flickr
Deadly allergic reactions can happen at any time, to absolutely anyone. Read more here. Find out why traveling with a food allergic kid (or anyone!) is so stressful.
This post originally appeared on my personal blog, but because November is Adoption Awareness Month, I wanted to share it here. I hope you'll all excuse the departure from my usual allergy-related content today. I would love to tell you that things are clearer now, since it has been nearly two years since finding my birth mother, a full sister, and connections to the rest of my biological family, but they are not. They are murkier, really. Adoption isn't something that a child overcomes. It's something woven into our lives' tapestries. This is one part of my tapestry.
There are the words I don’t want to say. They are the things I do not want to talk about. When I look around and realize that there is nobody who understands what it feels like to think I know my own story, only to be told it is nothing like I had thought.
I define and redefine who I am, and what makes me tick. I assess my progress through this life, silently marking my achievements, my joys, my growth. I feel adrift, disconnected though I cling tightly to the ones I love.
I stare into faces that somehow resemble my own for the first time in my life.
I do not understand how I could ever be apart from my children, or live my life not being their mother. I cannot understand how someone made the choice to leave me behind. There is no sadness with these thoughts, just empty curiosity. Incomprehension. I cannot fathom how strangers took me into their home and hearts as their own or how they can possibly process what has happened in the last year. My own life confuses me.
Where once there was only me, now there is a rich history to which I feel no attachment. There are people where there was only imagination, and expectations where there was always nothing.
The mechanisms set in motion are things I cannot contain.
The weight of it all compresses my chest.
For the first time in my life, I am pretending to know myself while I try to interpret this story that is not my own.