Karen Harris has managed allergies all her life. She was diagnosed with a tree nut allergy and oral allergy syndrome as a child. As an adult, she developed asthma and a soy allergy. She has three kids between the ages of 10 and 23. They all have asthma and/or allergies. Her oldest daughter, Lauryn, is also allergic to tree nuts. Her son, Layne, is allergic to insects. And her youngest daughter, Mika, is allergic to tree nuts, milk, eggs, most grains and some seeds. They all carry epinephrine auto-injectors.
“When I was younger, asthma and allergies weren’t as prevalent. I was never even sent to an allergist,” shared Karen.
While struggling to get a diagnosis for Mika as a young child, Karen found Kids With Food Allergies (KFA). She recalled that “KFA was the first organization that really helped me to become more educated and connect with other individuals who could support me in my pursuit to manage her allergies.”
Today, Karen is well educated about asthma and allergies. She is the President and Founder of Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta. The organization is one of several educational support groups affiliated with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) across the country. (KFA is a division of AAFA). The groups offer emotional support and information about asthma and allergies. Along with AAFA and KFA, Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta helps provide education about asthma and allergies to families, schools, health care professionals and restaurants.
In 2017, that support included organizing disaster relief for families who were displaced due to Hurricane Irma. As evacuees fled their homes in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, Karen worked with AAFA, other support groups and food banks to get allergy-friendly food into disaster areas.
The disaster relief reminded Karen about the importance of food banks. “People often think they may not need them, but in case of an emergency or natural disaster they can really assist with foods,” she shared.
Karen also worked with AAFA to create the Georgia Food Allergy & Asthma Emergency Disaster Relief Facebook group. “We utilized the internet to have a check-in place where people could connect,” recalled Karen. People donated food, money, time and even opened their homes to help people have a comfortable place to cook food.
“Organizations, families and support group members all came together to help. It was a wonderful collaboration. We learned how to act quickly so if this happens in another area we have connections ready to go.”
Don’t wait until a disaster hits. Make a plan ahead of time and check with AAFA and KFA for support.
You can improve the lives of people with food allergies by donating to Kids With Food Allergies. Donations allow us to continue to offer life-saving information, support, advocacy and research to the millions managing these conditions every day.