On Friday, the following article was on Yahoo … “Allergic Teen Dies After Eating Cookie.”
This article evokes three emotions in me. On one hand, my heart bleeds for this poor mother who kept her son alive for nineteen years. A mother who thought her child was finally old enough to stay safe after living a lifetime of walking the straight and narrow with food.
On the other hand, I feel fear for what the future holds for my own child. Will he ever go into anaphylactic shock? Will he ever be given CPR for two straight hours, as this boy was, in an effort to save his life?
But, the emotion that overrides all reason is anger. I am angry that this boy didn’t understand the severity of his allergy. And, I am angry that the food bully who assured the boy the cookie was safe, wasn’t educated enough to know the consequences.
One type of food bully will threaten a child with the food that they are allergic to. For example, “You better watch out or I’ll shove a peanut in your mouth.” Thank goodness we have not run into this type of person yet.
A second type of food bully, which we have ran across, will encourage an allergic child to eat food that isn’t safe. For example …
- Jake: Points to food that another child is eating. “Dat make me sick.”
- Food Bully: “This won’t make you sick. Here – try some.”
- Jake: “No. Dat make me sick.”
- Food Bully: “Ugh. It won’t make you sick!” Usually a good, heartfelt eye roll takes place here. “Just eat it.”
What is interesting about the above scenario is that food bullies are selfish. If Jake would have asked to try the food up front, the child probably would have said no. However, once a food bully finds out a child can’t have their snack and doesn’t even want it, suddenly it becomes a bit of a challenge to control the situation and get their way.
This behavior is perhaps to be expected amongst three to four-year olds, but at what age does it become unacceptable?
Just like the evil Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz coaxing Dorothy with her skinny, green finger outstretched, “Come here my little pretty.” Or the serpent in the Garden of Eden tempting Eve to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Basically, food bullying becomes as cut and dry as high school peer pressure … What will one drink hurt? What’s the worst that can happen? Everyone’s doing it. Who cares what your parents think? Just Do It!
Let me be clear. I am not placing all of the blame on the boy who offered up the cookie in this case. I cannot fault him for being uneducated and the boy who ingested the cookie should have known better.
But, I do wish more people were educated and knew the following facts:
- Every single label has to be read on packaged food.
- If label says “Processed in a ___ facility,” the food cannot be eaten.
- Food from a bakery is never allowed.
- Food from a restaurant usually cannot be trusted unless you speak to the chef.
- If someone has a peanut allergy, most chocolate is not safe. Even if the chocolate does not have peanuts in it, most is made in a peanut facility.
- Many kids can go into anaphylactic shock (death) if they get the allergen on their hands or if it is in the air. Consequently, eating just one bite or half of a cookie can be deadly.
I dream of a day when the responsibility of food allergies is not just a one-way street. How much different would the outcome have been in this particular case if they boy who had the cookie would have said, “No, man. You’re allergic. You better not risk it.” Just a few simple words could have saved a life.
In this day and age, many people still just don’t get it. Quite often, us food allergy mamas are viewed as high-maintenance, selfish people who think the world revolves around us. Quite often, eyes are rolled and sighs are breathed when parents of healthy children find out they will be sharing the school year with a child who has food allergies.
The bottom line is this … My child can die from eating certain foods that most people don’t think twice about. I am not being dramatic; I am being honest. I am doing my best to ensure that my son understands the severity of his condition, but it would be comforting to know that other people understand the facts as well.
Children of all ages need to be educated about food allergies and their awareness needs to be raised. The word needs to be spread. Feelings need to be felt and consideration needs to be given.
After all, you never know when a child like my little boy will pop up unexpectedly in your child’s life. It could be anywhere; Sunday School, sliding down the slide on a playground, high-fiveing him at a birthday party … or maybe even in his freshman class in college.