Fifteen years ago, Rene was in shock as she carried Ian’s limp, purple body into the emergency room. He was unresponsive and barely breathing.* She knew he was having an allergic reaction to something he ate at his first birthday party earlier that evening. But she didn’t fully understand that Ian was experiencing anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction.
When Ian was 3 months old, Rene was told he had a protein intolerance. With little information and no support, Rene and Ian made it through a stressful first year.
“I remember seeing something about food allergies and anaphylaxis while I was trying to find recipes,” recalled Rene. “I had never known anyone who had life-threatening food allergies, so I didn’t understand it. I didn’t realize that’s what was happening to my son until we were heading to the ER. I felt blindsided.”
When Ian was treated and released from the ER, his pediatrician recommended they see an allergist. A few days later, they met with the allergist for skin testing.
“He tested positive to peanut, egg, fish and wheat,” Rene said. “We think egg had caused the reaction that sent him to the ER. As the nurse was training us on how to use the epinephrine injector, I became more overwhelmed than before because I now knew that common foods might kill him.”
Fifteen years ago, the internet did not have the wealth of information it has today, especially on food allergies. Labeling laws for the top 8 food allergens weren’t in place yet. As a parent managing food allergies, Rene felt scared and alone. KFA was one of the few sources of help she could find.
“I remember searching for information on the internet,” said Rene. “I would find small bits of information, but never enough to make sense of it all. When I found Kids With Food Allergies (KFA), food allergies finally started to make sense. I had access to so much helpful information. I found recipes and substitutions. I found resources to share with my son’s babysitters, and later, his school. I learned how to advocate for him. And the other community members were there to encourage me and offer help whenever I needed it. His first year of life had been stressful and overwhelming. Finding KFA was a turning point for us.”
Ian eventually outgrew all his food allergies except peanut. Through the years, Rene has used KFA’s resources to teach him how to manage food allergies on his own. Now that he is a teenager, he knows how to advocate for himself, read labels and eat out on his own. He was also diagnosed with asthma and eczema, so Rene now relies on resources from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) to help him manage those conditions on his own too. (KFA is a division of AAFA).
“My son came home from school one day and told me about a classmate who also had a peanut allergy. He didn’t carry epinephrine and didn’t know how to read labels. My son explained to him why that’s important. He said, ‘Mom, I’m concerned about him because he doesn’t know a lot about his allergy. I’m afraid he will have a reaction. I want to help him learn what to do.’ That’s when I knew he gets it. I have KFA to thank for that. Everything KFA offers has helped me teach my son to not only protect himself, but to pass that life-saving knowledge to others too.”
*Names have been changed for privacy
You can help KFA continue to improve the lives of families managing food allergies. Please join with us and give generously before the end of the year. Donations allow us to offer life-saving information, support, advocacy and research.
If you prefer to mail a check instead of giving online, please postmark your gift by Dec. 31, 2018, and send it to:
KFA Division of Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
8201 Corporate Drive, Suite 1000
Landover, MD 20785