by William Antony, FAACT Teen Advisory Council Member
When asked to write a blog about living with multiple, life-threatening food allergies from the perspective of a 17-year-old boy, I jumped at the chance. There are so many misconceptions about food allergies and those of us who manage them on a daily basis.
Let me first introduce myself, I'm William Antony. I'm 17 years old and a junior in high school. I'm allergic to peanuts, all tree nuts, shellfish and mollusk. I was diagnosed when I was a year old. My mom fed me peanut butter toast and that's when I had my first reaction. Thankfully, I was ok and that experience started our family on our food allergy journey. I want to add that as someone who lives with multiple, life-threatening food allergies that I don't see this condition as that big of a deal. Everybody faces hardship and challenges in life. Living with food allergies is my challenge and I'm grateful that they can easily be managed by always carrying two epinephrine auto-injectors, clear communication and a bit of forethought and organization. Fear is not an option for me. Life is for living and I intend to make the most of every second of it!
Today's blog is about air travel with food allergies. My dad travels a lot for work so our family is lucky to have lots of free plane tickets and hotel points. It's because of this that we travel all the time! We go away for every school break. While I live in Nashville, our family is in the Boston area and Chicago, so we always visit them for holidays and special family events. Our family also travels a lot just for fun. I've been all over the country. I've been to Tennessee, Florida, Atlanta, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Chicago, New Orleans, NYC, Boston, Martha's Vineyard, and Washington DC just to name a few cities/states I've been lucky enough to visit. It is fairly easy to travel via airplane with food allergies, but it requires organization. The most important thing is to ALWAYS pack multiple epinephrine auto-injectors for each trip. I always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors on my body, no exceptions. When making airline reservations, always note your food allergies with the travel representative so there is clear documentation in advance of your condition. I always pre-board the plane with a parent (I usually travel on Southwest Airlines) and we wipe down my seat and area to ensure they are as clean as possible. I wear disposable latex gloves on every trip to avoid accidental surface contact. I always carry my own drinks and avoid eating on planes, even on long flights. I don't remove my gloves until I'm off the jetway and en route to baggage claim. My parents are very supportive of this process and have taught me well. I feel fully confident about being able to do all of this on my own when I travel alone throughout college and afterwards in my adult years.
Stay tuned for my next blog entry! I'll talk about how I handle traveling after leaving the airport! That's where the real fun begins, but it's also the time when clear communication, organization and planning become increasingly more important. Until then, carry two epinephrine auto-injectors, stay safe and have fun!