Let’s face it, those of us with multiple food allergies don’t stand out in a crowd. We don’t look obviously different from others. Yet, people who don’t live with this invisible medical condition often find it hard to fathom that, with a few wrong bites, such healthy-looking kids and adults can wind up severely ill in the hospital. Or worse.
“But you look so ‘normal,'” I’ve been told to my face. Well, mostly I am. Those of us with severe food allergies try to be active, to socialize, and live full and good lives. But what others don’t see is the extreme diligence that goes into staying healthy.
There’s the stamina required to read every single food label, and to quiz every restaurant server. The drilled-in habit that you check for your auto-injectors when leaving the house, even before you locate your keys. And when you travel, you learn that it’s better to pack more safe foods than clothes.
For Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW), Allergic Living aims to raise the bar on recognizing food allergies as a serious disease. Our theme is: Let’s Make the Invisible So Visible.
We are publishing a special series of articles – please see our lineup below. The intent is that the food allergy community can share these articles, and use them to help others come to grasp the food allergy experience, and the very real risks of anaphylaxis. Education is so important because – our disease is invisible, until it’s not.
‘Invisible to Visible’ Lineup of Articles
These articles will be promoted on Allergic Living’s social media accounts, using hashtags such as #foodallergyawareness and #FAAW.
Monday May 9
Silenced by a pilot just to stay on a flight, what I learned about the importance of making food allergies visible and understood. By Lianne Mandelbaum of Nonuttraveler.com.
Tuesday May 10
1. A teen’s on her journey from isolation to speaking up and owning her food allergies. By Indrani Maitra.
2. Sorry, not sorry for my food allergies. By Lindiwe Lewis
Wednesday May 11
1. Alexa Jordan ran into food allergy resistance at a restaurant. The college student was rudely asked: “where’s your disability?” It has only fueled her goal to be a lawyer.
2. Merrill Debbs on May’s International Red Sneakers Day, a very visible event of food allergy awareness.
Thursday May 12
1. On Allergic Living’s Instagram and Facebook pages: How do YOU make invisible food allergies so visible?
2. Reminder of our Awareness Tool Kit: support the food allergy/asthma non-profits’ FAAW programs. Plus, “Speak Up” with Allergic Living’s educational posters.
Friday May 13
1. The garden and my food-allergic sons: a food allergy mom and her 3 boys discover gardening, lessening their food fears, and creating meals without limits. By Amber Spann
2. Get armed with facts: Top Ask the Allergists’ answers to our readers’ questions.
Making a Dent in Disinformation
What I love about the May awareness month, and FAAW in particular, is that it’s a chance to change the narrative from trivializing food allergies to creating understanding of allergic disease.
We will always encounter some people who don’t “get” food allergies or think they’re exaggerated. Even worse, some will mock or bully those just trying to ensure anaphylaxis doesn’t happen.
You can’t win over everyone, but you can make a dent in misunderstanding, missing facts and dimissiveness. I’ve developed a quick way to explain that: food allergies are a severe condition related to the immune system; being exposed to my allergens has put me in the hospital. That gets attention. I encourage you to develop your own “food allergy talk,” to have a quick explanation at the ready.
Consider that there are so many diet lifestyles and preferences today. Sometimes we do have to spell out that food allergies aren’t a choice. Say it with me: this is a serious medical condition.
This FAAW and beyond, if you open the eyes of even 2 out of 5 people you meet, think of the better, safer place you’ve made the world for your loved ones with food allergies. Happy advocating!