Over the school holidays, a great friend and I took a trip to Al Barsha park to exercise the children. It’s a park I’m fond of, with bicycles for hire, a (manmade) lake with a track round it and ample play areas.
It was sunny, warm and, without the routine of the school day to contend with, there was a relaxed atmosphere among the mums, who’d spread blankets on the grass, brought picnics and were exchanging details about their plans for the holiday.
“We’re staying in Dubai, how about you?” “Lapland, just for five days – we’ve booked a glass igloo!” The conversations were peppered with the names of far-flung places, visiting relatives and venues serving turkey.
I can’t remember exactly what B and I were talking about as we watched our children play, but, all of a sudden, she leapt up, ninja-style, and ran to her two-year-old son – reaching him just in time, before the snack a nanny had offered him touched his lips.
“I’m sorry,” she said, politely – but urgently – to the lady in question. “He’s got food allergies and can’t eat the things other kids eat.” The moment passed, little K got back to digging in the sand, and the nanny he’d wandered over to turned her attention back to feeding her tribe.
But the episode, which all happened so fast, has stayed with me. Not least because, now that my children are a bit older, I don’t have to watch them quite so closely. I can sit in the park, chat, even read a book (it’s so much better). My friend, on the other hand, needs eyes in the back of her head to keep her severely allergic tot out of harm’s way. That kind of vigilance is a full-time job.
B put a post on Facebook yesterday and I’m sure she won’t mind if I copy it here, as it sums up perfectly some of the frustrations that the growing number of parents of allergic children go through, and how people (including celebrities) can help.
“It really bothers me when a celebrity comments on something important that they know nothing about. For instance, writing about having food allergies and being able to add these foods in and out of their diets.
I understand unless you are affected by food allergies, you may not know the difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy. However, if you are influential, you should learn the difference before you affect the way so many view food allergies and their potential consequences.
My child has severe food allergies. Ingesting a peanut, milk, or eggs could kill him. Not just upset his stomach. KILL HIM. The first time we had to inject him with an Epi-Pen, within minutes of coming in contact with the allergen, he had quarter-sized hives all over his little body, then his voice changed and we knew his throat was closing shut. He hadn’t even turned 2 yet.
It was the scariest experience of my life.
I think about his food allergies constantly. And although it’s become second nature to read every label, worry about cross-contamination, and make sure he always has safe food to eat, it still can be a daily struggle.
My child is never more than 5 feet away from an Epi-pen. We are never able to go to a restaurant here and order food off the menu for him. They either don’t have anything safe or they really don’t understand how serious the consequences could be if they made a mistake, or cross-contaminate his food. I don’t want sympathy. My child is just like every other child; he is happy and full of life. His food allergies don’t define who he is. I need everyone to know that a food allergy is not a food intolerance.
Would you know what to do if you stumbled upon a child who was going into anaphylactic shock? I hope that even if you’re annoyed with my long rant, you will take the time to read how to use an Epi-pen because it could save someone’s life.
It could save my child’s life.
So please, Mr. Celebrity, before you go off complaining about how your “food allergies” are upsetting your stomach, please learn what the hell you’re talking about.”
How to use an Epi-pen: Click here