Vigilance isn’t optional with food allergies. There isn’t a day when it’s not something you have to think about. This is usually the part where some well-meaning person interjects a platitude about the benefits of not worrying. Que será será.
If you or a loved one has allergies, you know something they don’t—that advice is really, really…unhelpful.
I wish it were that simple.
Because it’s not that simple, we stay vigilant.
For allergy folks and the ones who love them, that means two things: carrying auto-injectors and educating people who are still new to this. We carry life-saving medication because mistakes happen, packaged food can be contaminated, restaurants (when you actually go) can mess up an order, situations can come up that expose you to food you otherwise intentionally avoid. Home or away, the auto-injectors need to be present in order to help. This also isn’t something you can just keep in the glove box of your car. Epinephrine needs to stay within a certain temperature range to remain effective. (For outings, there are insulated cases you can buy to extend that timeframe though.) For a lot of people they’re not accessible and affordable enough as it is. They should be affordable enough to be everywhere you go and then some, but since they’re not, that means remembering to carry them with you everywhere. (I’ve already vented via illustration about barriers to epinephrine access.)
It’s also wise to carry both auto-injectors with you, not just one. If that’s hard to wrap your head around remembering to carry medication all the time, imagine having to keep track of your set of keys or wallet like your life depended on it. If you forget your license, you might get a ticket. If you forget your or a loved one’s epinephrine, *deep breath* that’s a hard sentence to finish…
Food allergy families relentlessly educate people because unfortunately, ignorance of the subject gives many the idea that food allergies are just some trendy idea—like some cute, self-imposed dietary restriction à la Whole-30. Food allergies are actually a classified disability. There is currently no cure* for food allergies. Worse yet, many still don’t understand food allergic reactions can be fatal. If that seems too abstract to absorb, take a look at this list; read their stories. Every single time I look at that list, my eyes well up. Every time. It’s incredibly heart-sinking wondering who could be on there next—and why.
That’s where you come in.
When you know what this means, when you advocate for people who deal with something you don’t, you could be saving lives and not even know it. Even if food allergies aren’t a part of your life now, it’s not to say they won’t become a part of your own life or a loved one’s later. The number of food allergy diagnoses is climbing for adults and children. (Read an interesting perspective on life before and life after food allergies here.)
If you would, it would be great if you’d donate to food allergy research. For such a prevalent condition, it’s comparatively underfunded.
If you or a loved one need help remembering to bring your epinephrine along, I made a printable for our door at home that I wanted to share with whomever else would like one.
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Download the free, printable at this link:
*Note: there are therapies that can put allergies into what could be called a type of remission, but understand that’s not a cure, not FDA-approved at this time, not something which everyone qualifies to participate, not always covered by insurance, and some don’t feel comfortable risking the exposure because of the risks involved.