Razor-Sharp Humor Makes the Food Allergy Case

in Food Allergy Advocates
Published: January 22, 2015
FAFCats4ALWhy do you think your cartoons resonate with people the way that they have?

I think it’s because there’s nothing we can do about food allergies. We can’t fix it. So to find a comic angle on that frustration just lightens the mood.

Also, when people say things to people with allergies, I don’t think they are trying to be insensitive or hurtful. So when they see it drawn in a silly stick figure comic, it looks so absurd out of context that it really holds a mirror up to what they’ve just said.

Are you reaching people who aren’t living in the food allergy world?

A cartoon I posted in October about the teal pumpkin project was shared 551 times on Facebook and reached almost 50,000 people. Everyone who relates to a cartoon and posts it in their feed is then sharing it with their friends and families, who don’t necessarily live with food allergies.

It gives these people a really quick, 10-second visual aid to illustrate something that’s going on in their life without posting say, an article, that has a lot of layers of understanding you would have to read through.

You also had a website called “Skittlegate”. What was that about?

When my son started kindergarten, even after checking every box and writing every letter, getting our epinephrine and drilling my son for weeks about what to do at school, the first week he came home and said “I went to computer class, it was great, I got a Skittle.”

After communicating with the school and not seeing changes, I posted online that I didn’t understand the policy. One county was saying teachers “cannot reward” with candy, and my county says teachers “should not” reward with candy.

I had a website running for quite a while where it was an ongoing debate. The whole thing was almost absurd on purpose to cause that conversation. I went on talk radio to just say – “This is a problem. Before you hand a child a piece of candy, you need to find out if that’s safe or not.”

What was the school’s reaction?

I have a very good relationship with my son’s school. His teacher said to me, during Skittlegate, “Children can’t have too many advocates.” But this one resource teacher had always given out Skittles after her class. It was a difficult change for her.

A lot of parents run into problems like this, but not many start a website rebellion. Why do you think that was a good strategy?

I don’t think it’s a good strategy, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. Once you hit that first domino, the rest falls with or without you. It caused months and months of public debate.

On one side there were parents like me who see the danger. But on the other side there are people who say, “You’re ruining our school. It used to be fun.”

Why are you pushing for stock epinephrine in places of businesses?

Virginia was one of the first states to adopt stock epinephrine in the schools in 2012. Those auto-injectors were used over 300 times in our state’s schools last year with children having their first reaction.

Those of us familiar with the benefits of access to epinephrine think it’s critically important to extend that safety net to other public places. This is done with defibrillators to save lives, we need the same with epinephrine for unexpected life-threatening reactions. Florida now has a law allowing epinephrine to be kept by businesses in case of emergency. We want that for Virginia, too.

What’s next for you?

My focus from the beginning of drawing these cartoons has been comic relief – I have other artwork that I make, and another job, too.

But I get requests from people for things like T-shirts for their children to wear. I did recently put up a shirt for sale, and I might do more of that as a service for others.


See Tiffany Glass Ferreira’s artwork:

2014 Honorees in The Allergy Advocates Series:

Lisa Rutter: A Force of Good for Food Allergy
Karen Harris: Food Allergy’s Educating Dynamo
Cathy Owens: The Nurse Who Is the Allergic Student’s Protector
Jenny Sprague: Courageous Woman who Unites Allergy Bloggers
Gina Mennett Lee: A Voice of Reason for Food Allergy at School and Daycare
Lianne Mandelbaum: A Force of Nature for Safe Travel with Allergies
Anne Russell: A Nurse Driven to Improve Food Allergy Education

See Also:
Allergy Explorer Honoree Dr. Brian Vickery: The MD Training Baby’s Immune System Not to Be Allergic