Piedmont Triad Living October 2016 - Page 16

Food allergy is estimated to affects 15 million Americans, 6 million of those being children. That is an average of two children per classroom. Eight foods account for 90% of all allergic reactions; egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish, but there are as many as 170 documented foods that have caused severe reactions. As a growing health concern, the impact reaches beyond families who have received the diagnoses to friends, extended family, caregivers and school personnel.

Leaving the allergist's office with a diagnosis of food allergy, for yourself or your child, can be overwhelming. What are simple or mundane experiences for others become potentially life threatening when food allergies must be considered. Grocery shopping, attending social gatherings, preparing for school, traveling and even just spending the day out shopping and running errands requires special planning and preparedness. Spending time with others who understand the challenges of living with food allergies can be life changing.

As a Mom of two boys with life threatening food allergies, I know first hand how important it is to lend support and increase awareness. My first son was diagnosed with multiple life threatening food allergies almost 8 years ago and my family's journey inspired me to start Food Allergy Families of the Triad (FAFT), in 2012. FAFT is a local food allergy support group that services the entire Piedmont Triad. FAFT offers free educational seminars led be leading experts, allergen friendly social gatherings, advocacy and in person and on-line support. We have held over 30 free seminars throughout the Triad, led training for daycare personnel and school nurses, participated in several local community events, worked on a national, state and local level to increase awareness and pass legislation, and supported many families at different points in their journey.

Here are just 3 ways you can benefit from joining FAFT...

1. Knowledge Saves Lives -Knowledge is power and with food allergies, it can be life saving. Learning more about reading labels, the civil rights of food allergic individuals, how to include food allergic individuals, recognition of anaphylaxis, treatment of anaphylaxis, reducing the chance of cross contamination and therefore accidental exposures can save lives in our community.

2. Lend & Receive Support- Support comes in many forms; volunteering, participating in charity walks, financial donations, a hug, sharing of experiences, encouraging words or simply listening. Anyone who has volunteered knows the personal benefits that are reaped from giving back to the community. And, with the current growth of food allergy, there is a good chance it will impact each American in their lifetime. Adults find comfort in speaking with others who “get it” and draw on others' experiences, while children find a sense of peace knowing they are not the only ones living with the challenges that accompany food allergies.

Create the Community You Desire-Margaret Mead says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” By coming together as a community to inspire change through education, awareness, policy changes and modeling thoughtful choices to keep others safe with food allergies, we can create a more educated and compassionate community.

You can ask any of the members and they will tell you the support they receive from FAFT is immeasurable. Christine, of Wallburg, says, “FAFT member helped me navigate sending my food allergic child to kindergarten by giving me experienced advice on keeping him safe. FAFT provided me with the resources I needed to advocate for him within the school system. I'd never have been able to do this, and have some comfort with this process, if it wasn't for FAFT and the fellow food allergy families”. I believe, “On-line resources are convenient and helpful in some areas, but the human spirit benefits in unmeasurable ways when time is spent sitting down face to face with others who are living with the same challenges”.

To find out how you might get involved or to learn more about food allergies, please visit www.foodallergyfamiliesofthetriad.org.

Support for a Growing Community

“Food Allergy is estimated to affect 15 million Americans, 6 million of those being children.”

By Angela Fuller

Founder & President

Food Allergy Families of the Triad