Inconvenient: The reality of living with food allergies

Earlier this week, a video was circulating on the internet showing a school board meeting in Michigan. In it, school board members were discussing food allergies and the effect they have on foods being allowed in school.

“Well, you should just shoot them,” a school board member said. She threw her arms up and shrugged a little after she said it. She was clearly kidding. It was a joke to her. It is the sort of thing said when forced to discuss inconveniences at length. She said it because food allergies are inconvenient and she was tired of talking about inconvenient things.

Linda Grossman did not want to harm food allergic children. She was just tired of talking about food allergies.

I am also tired. I am tired of people saying things like this that are meant in jest but are insidious and disrespectful and deeply hurtful.

I am tired of people behaving like food allergies are a personality attribute, not a life threatening medical condition.

I am tired of people feeling like they have more of a right to convenience than food allergic people have to be alive.

As of 2010, an estimated 8.96% of adults and 6.53% of children in the US are food allergic. Averaged, this means that about 1/13 people in the US have food allergies. 1/13 means that on average, each classroom in the US can be expected to have 1-2 food allergic students. Among asthmatic children, the frequency of food allergy skyrockets to a whopping 24%. Childhood food allergies cost approximately 25 billion dollars a year in the US.

Frequency of food allergy rose 50% between 1997 and 2011, with peanut allergy alone tripling in that time. As many as 40% of food allergic children have previously had severe anaphylactic reactions that could have resulted in death. Severe reactions requiring hospitalization have increased sevenfold in the last ten years in Europe.

Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis outside of a hospital setting and results in 200,000 emergency department visits yearly. This equates to one person every three minutes. It is estimated that 100-200 people die from food allergies each year in the US, with numerous conflicting reports.

I am tired of food allergic people and families having to beg for steps to help prevent DEATH.

I am tired of people feeling that making practical changes to prevent people from DYING is inconvenient.

I am tired of people making jokes about a medical issue that KILLS people.

I am tired of food allergic people being excluded from everything because their LIFE THREATENING condition is INCONVENIENT for the other people there.

I am tired of living in a world that prioritizes convenience over the health and welfare of its people.

I am tired of people who should damn well know better spouting dangerously inaccurate facts about food allergy. So I’m putting all my other posts on hold and we’re going to talk about food allergies, FPIES, eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease, celiac disease, and a-gal allergy.

This is not a joke. Anaphylaxis is not a joke. Food allergic people are not jokes. It’s time to stop pretending comments like these aren’t damaging. It’s time for us to stand up and fight.

4 Responses

  1. Shirley November 27, 2014 / 10:15 pm

    Well said Lisa. A year or two ago I attended a conference on childcare where a well know child psychologist made a similar remark. I took the organisers of the conference on about their choice of speakers and her remarks. I did not get an apology but I did make a stink about it and left in disgust. If we can’t look after our children what type of society are we?

  2. Heather November 27, 2014 / 10:18 pm

    This school board meeting happened just a mile or so from my house. (not our school system thankfully) The video went viral and pretty much everyone is pissed off about this woman’s comment. Adding to the pain of this issue, just a few miles north of here, Oakland University student Chandler Swink died yesterday after being in a coma for a week from an anaphylactic reaction from peanuts. He drove himself to the hospital in anaphylaxis, had an asthma attack followed by cardiac arrest and was found unconscious in his car the next day. Two events just a couple of miles from each other.

    This is real stuff and I am sick and tired of feeling bad about explaining my situation to everyone around me. Like I’m apologizing for my inconvenience. My son is “sensitive” (no signs of mast cell yet, thank God but does have Ehlers Danlos like me) and I keep him from gluten and artificial colors. His school has allowed him donuts and cupcakes (birthday celebrations) on three occasions this year and I am sick and tired of pleading our case over and over. No, his throat doesn’t close up but he becomes a hyper kid who can’t focus and gets really “weird.” He has his own “treat bag” for those special occasions so that he can have something of his own. But no one really monitors it.

    Today I skipped the large Thanksgiving dinner that my husband’s extended family members hold at a hall in order to avoid triggers. My husband and son returned from the hall smothered in the smell of Grandma and Auntie’s perfumes and I had a horrible reaction. They didn’t know I was skipping out and I can’t believe that they bathed themselves in something that they KNOW would cause me distress. No respect whatever.

    Sorry to vent. Just sick and tired of this. Thank you for all you do, Lisa. You are brilliant and I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    Heather G. of Royal Oak, Michigan

    • Lisa Klimas November 27, 2014 / 10:26 pm

      I’m with you. It bothers me when people decide for themselves what is “severe enough” to require accommodation. A reaction does not have to be life threatening to be negative to overall health. If it’s your body or your kid’s body, you’re the boss.

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