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Allergy Sufferer vs. Allergy Advocate – Empowering Our Kids to Take Charge of Their Challenges

by Daniella Knell

April is one of my favorite times of year because I am prepping to present food allergy awareness classes during Food Allergy Awareness Week in May. As my kids get older and older, my focus switches to getting them and their food allergy peers more involved. This year is going to be A LOT of fun.     

Whether living with one or multiple food allergies, mild or anaphylactic reactions, managing food allergies is challenging. The daily ritual of being cautious about everything you eat can be tiresome and frustrating. Both of my kids have classmates in their grade levels managing food allergies and/or intolerances. Surprisingly, my son has OVER 7 kids out of 40 managing a variety of foods including: dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, gluten and wheat.

IT’S EASY TO JUMP ON THE BANDWAGON OF FEELING SORRY FOR OUR KIDS  
Recently my family went out to one of our designated ‘safe’ restaurants for an easy meal after a crazy evening running around. My son asked for the ONE specific meal he orders regularly. As he sat waiting for it, he leaned over and said, “How nice would it be to walk into any restaurant, at any time and order whatever you want”? Any food allergy parent knows the heart break of knowing there IS NOT A THING we can do to ‘control their food allergies’. But, we can put them ‘in control of their challenges’.

TURN THEM INTO THEIR OWN ADVOCATES
For years, we have practiced using outdated auto-injectors on oranges at home. Besides having multiple allergies, my son is also anaphylactic to peanut/tree nuts. Due to his maturity and severity of his allergies, he was approved to carry an allergy pack on his person beginning in 1st grade. I have helped him to train his teachers with what is in his pack, since he started self-carrying.

PUT THEM IN CHARGE OF TRAINING THEIR TEACHERS
At the beginning of the year, we take in outdated auto-injectors – NOT trainers, and my son reviews the proper procedures for using them. We have yet to train a teacher who has ever touched anything except a trainer. We’ve had teachers nervous to hold them. They are always impressed with his knowledge and ability to explain and demonstrate how to use them.  As so many others who don’t live in our world, they don’t truly understand that knowing how to use these is HIS daily reality.

For FAAW 2017, MY SON WILL BE IN CHARGE AGAIN
He and some of his allergy classmates, will demonstrate how to use epinephrine auto-injector trainers to their classmates. My now 8th grader did this in 5th grade and it was a HUGE success. The teacher asked me to keep the trainers for a few days because the kids wanted to practice longer than the 30 minutes allotted. The students learned something valuable.  And, my daughter’s challenges became a catalyst for education. Now it will be my son’s turn.

Allergy Sufferer or Allergy Advocate? The choice is ours. EVERY one of us can make a difference. Start Small. Start Young. START NOW!

About the Author
Daniella Knell is the owner of Smart Allergy~Friendly Education. She’s passionate about inspiring kids and adults to live their lives with food allergies without constant fear.  She believes that education and knowing the resources around you are the keys to navigating your food allergy journey safely.  As a mom of two with six of the top 8 allergens, she understands the challenges of managing and traveling with life threatening food allergies.  Whether in her Boise community, as an ambassador for SunButter or on a plane where she works as a flight attendant, you can find her publicly advocating for greater allergy awareness and education. You can follow Daniella’s latest product and resource finds Smart Allergy~Friendly EducationFacebookLinked InTwitter or Pinterest.