I was excited to read this brave story told by a remarkable young man. Fifteen-year-old Olivier Deldicque was first diagnosed with a life-threatening allergy to milk when he was four months old. He also has allergies to peanut, tree nuts, raw egg, and some ﬁsh. In this eye-opening book, he speaks about the challenges of life with food allergies, but also about sports, cooking and travel – passions that he engages in safely by knowing the risks, planning in advance and being aware. By sharing his story and his positive attitude, Olivier offers advice, inspiration and empathy to kids growing up with food allergies, their families, and friends and neighbors who don’t yet understand this life-changing and increasingly common disease.
Olivier is one of many exceptional teens with food allergies who I’ve had the pleasure to meet as the CEO of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Our organization is committed to helping these young people find their voice and advocate for themselves. Their stories, like this one, powerfully illustrate the courage it takes to remain aware of constant hazards, but still live fully. I am confident that by telling their experiences in their own words, Olivier and others will help engage public support for the research, education and awareness efforts we need to reverse the rise of food allergy.
CEO, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)
Allergy Adjustments: Parents can support their food allergic child
Posted on September 3, 2019
For many families, September is about kids getting back to school, playing fall sports or starting other new activities. This means new teachers, coaches and friends. A family dealing with a child’s food allergies has additional anxiety about all the changes.
One in 13 children in the United States has a food allergy; 40 percent of allergic kids have reactions to more than one food. Every child has likely been exposed to the problem since nearly every class at school has someone with an allergy.
I am now 16, and I was diagnosed with severe food allergies when I was 3 months old. I’m severely allergic to dairy, peanuts, tree nuts and raw eggs. While most people understand a peanut allergy, I meet people all the time who confuse my dairy allergy with an intolerance. If I drink milk or take a scoop of dairy yogurt, my throat will close up. Peanuts are just one of the top eight allergens that can lead to anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.
There is no cure for food allergies although there are some promising treatments. Strict avoidance is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction. The only way to treat an anaphylactic reaction is with an injected dose of epinephrine as soon as possible. People with allergies must carry this medication with them at all times.
Living with food allergies is challenging because food is a part of our daily life and especially our social lives. For myself, I try to strike a balance between living cautiously and living a full “normal” life. It’s important for everyone to realize that people with food allergies aren’t trying to make life difficult, they are trying to stay alive. If you’re bummed you aren’t being served peanuts on your flight or that your child can’t take a peanut butter sandwich to school, try to think about the parent’s fear that their child will stop breathing 30,000 feet in the air or that their 5-year-old will take a bite of that sandwich at school. It’s not an easy way to live. A little understanding goes a long way.
Here are some tips everyone can use to keep us all safe and happy.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AGE
If your child has a friend with an allergy, ask questions. Chances are your child is already protective of their friend. My classmates were always supportive of me. Don’t be afraid to invite the food allergic child over! Talk with the other parent. Likewise, if you are the parent of a child with an allergy, ask what food will be served at the play date or party. Offer to bring safe snacks for your child. This is what my mom always did. She also volunteered to provide the food for class parties. This takes the stress off everyone.
Most important is for everyone around the child with the allergy to know what to do in case of a reaction. (Remember coaches and bus drivers, too.) Food is everywhere. Talk to your child about getting help from a teacher if they think their food allergic friend is in trouble.
This age is a good time to start planting the seeds of empowerment in your child with allergies. My parents worked with me on reading food labels, ordering food in a restaurant and learning how to cook. We also talked about trust: Even if people have good intentions in their kitchens, I cannot eat a food unless it is clearly labeled. Don’t take it personally if I turn down your cookies at church—I’m politely protecting myself.
MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL
As I got older, managing my food allergies changed. I began to do more activities on my own and started carrying my auto-injector myself. The teen years are the most dangerous for kids with food allergies. This is when the most fatal reactions occur. Teens don’t want to draw attention to themselves so they might not talk about their allergies or carry their medication. They are more likely to deny symptoms, allowing a reaction to get out of control.
At this age, help your teen find a carrier for the medication that they will use. Encourage them to wear some type of medical identification. Discuss social scenarios with your teen, offer to host social activities at your home and encourage your teen to be open with friends.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is to not fear the auto-injector. Many people are scared to use it, but the golden rule is: epi first, epi fast. My allergist used to tell me: “No one dies from the Epi-Pen.”
At any age, it’s important to communicate and be understanding about food allergies. My family has been fortunate to work with kind and helpful teachers, administrators, chefs, camp directors and parents along the way. I also have great friends who know about my allergies.
It’s been helpful to me to be a part of the food allergy community. For example, the FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) website (www.foodallergy.org) has great information.
Kids with food allergies can suffer from anxiety, so talking with a school or private counselor can also help.
It is unfortunate that allergies are on the rise. However, through the years I have found more resources available and more options for safe, well-labeled food. Still, we all hear about tragedies that occur. One food allergy death is too many. By working together as a community, we can keep food allergic kids safe.
Teen: Speaking up about food allergies saves lives (Commentary)
Posted May 21, 2019
In this July 8, 2016, file photo, a pharmacist holds a package of EpiPens epinephrine auto-injector. Teens need to tell their friends if they have food allergies so that someone knows what to do in case of an allergic reaction, says the writer. (Rich Pedroncelli | AP)
By Special to Syracuse.com
Olivier Deldicque, 16, is a sophomore at Christian Brothers Academy. He is the author of “When Every Bite Matters: One Teen’s Journey With Food Allergies.”
By Olivier Deldicque | Special to Syracuse.com
May is Food Allergy Awareness Month, which is an opportunity to think about how the Syracuse community can be more educated about this important issue.
It’s pretty safe to say almost everyone knows someone with a food allergy. In fact, 32 million Americans have food allergies, and 1 in 13 children have food allergies. The age group at the highest risk for fatal reactions are teenagers.
There are several reasons the teenage years are the most dangerous for food allergies. Teenagers want to fit in and don’t like to draw attention to themselves. So, many teens with food allergies are embarrassed to talk about their allergies or to be seen carrying their epinephrine auto-injector. Instead of speaking up, they may ignore or downplay symptoms until a reaction gets out of control.
The teen years are also when kids start having their own social lives. They have less parental supervision because now they go out with friends. They must manage their allergies more independently, such as at parties and restaurants.
Because their brains are still developing, teenagers are more likely to engage in risky behavior. In teens with food allergies, risky behavior (such as simply eating a cookie at a party without knowing the ingredients) can become deadly in a manner of seconds.
As a teenager with food allergies myself, I know firsthand how hard it can be to balance managing allergies with trying to be a “normal” teen. Teens are already under a lot of stress and food allergies make it even worse.
Any food allergy death is one too many. There are several steps we as a community can take to support children and teens with food allergies.
In schools, we can work to clearly label the ingredients of cafeteria food. Not only is this safer, it can make a teen feel more “normal” if they can eat school food at least once in a while. It would be helpful if school vending machines also had clear labeling so people with food allergies can see the ingredients before purchasing something.
One of the best steps local schools can take is to educate all students and faculty about food allergies. This could be a few minutes of classroom time, posters around school or even offering a brief training on how to use an auto-injector, which hopefully can be found in the school.
The main way to decrease fatalities among teens is to offer support and encourage them to talk about their allergies. It is critical for teens to tell their friends about their allergies. Friends need to know what a reaction looks like and what to do if they are with their friend when a reaction occurs, because seconds count.
Also, just because someone has food allergies, doesn’t mean you should be afraid to invite them to birthday parties or social events. Let the allergic person know what you are serving and that they are welcome to bring a safe food they can enjoy. This makes everyone feel comfortable.
A little understanding goes a long way. People with food allergies aren’t trying to make other people’s life complicated, they are trying to stay alive.
If we are all aware what a food allergy is, how to identify it, and know what to do in case of an emergency, food allergy fatalities among teens can be prevented