Cleveland Browns tight end Demetrius Harris understands the importance of avoiding an opposing teams’ defense to get the football into the end zone. He also understands the importance of avoiding food allergens to prevent a severe allergic reaction. When he plays with the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 8, he’ll play with both in mind for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign.
“My Cause My Cleats gives players a chance to share a cause you believe in – something you can express that people don’t know about you,” said Demetrius. “My son, Trey, has a peanut allergy. We found out when he was 1 year old. As a dad, I see how important it is to watch everything. Peanuts are everywhere. A lot of parents have to be careful because their kids have food allergies.”
During the NFL games this week, Demetrius and other players will be wearing custom cleats designed to represent the charities they are passionate about. The cleats will be auctioned off with 100% of the money raised going to their chosen organizations. Because of his son’s allergy to peanuts, Demetrius will have Kids With Food Allergies (KFA) represented on his cleats designed by Ryan Bare SR Customs. KFA is a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
Trey, now 2, first reacted to peanuts when eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As he became covered in hives, his mother, Kip Force, recognized this as a sign of anaphylaxis [anna-fih-LACK-sis]. As a health care professional, she knew they had to get him to the emergency room right away. Trey was then diagnosed with a peanut allergy.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. It must be treated right away with epinephrine. It is the only way to prevent serious, potentially life-threatening complications.
Some symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Skin rashes and itching and hives
- Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
- Shortness of breath, trouble breathing, wheezing (whistling sound during breathing)
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- Stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea
- Feeling like something awful is about to happen
To prevent allergic reactions to food allergens, it is important to read food ingredient labels and avoid cross-contact with the food. For Demetrius and Kip, this also means keeping peanuts out of their home and wiping down restaurant tables and airplane trays and seats. Trey broke out in hives after being kissed by his mom after she had eaten peanut M&Ms. He had another reaction when he picked up a peanut. It is common for toddlers to explore and pick things up and put them in their mouths.
"We wipe down the plane seat, and we rely on other people to listen to announcements," said Demetrius. "You’ve got to sacrifice or just be more aware to help out kids and adults with allergies. Some people just don’t know how bad the food allergies can be – I’ve seen in my son how severe it can be.”
Allergies and asthma aren’t new to Demetrius. He has several close family members who manage these conditions. That’s another reason why representing KFA on the field is important to him.
“I want everybody to be aware,” Demetrius said. “It’s very dangerous if someone has a reaction if it’s not taken care of fast enough. When people understand more about food allergies, we can prevent food allergy reactions."
Demetrius has teamed up with KFA during My Cause My Cleats to raise food allergy awareness and to improve the day-to-day lives of families raising children with food allergies. KFA helps families manage their fears and move to a place of confidence. We provide a vital lifeline for families through support, advocacy, education and research.
Demetrius will wear his KFA cleats on the Dec. 8 game between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.