Shine a Light on Teal for Food Allergy Awareness Week!

Shine a Light on Teal for Food Allergy Awareness Week!

Pull out your teal shirts and warm up your typing fingers! We’re approaching Food Allergy Awareness Month – and more specifically, Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 12-18). 

Okay, we know what you’re thinking. When you, or someone you love, lives with food allergies, it feels like you spend a bit of time every week (or day!) raising awareness about food allergies in order to navigate life safely. What makes the month of May (particularly the second full week) special? We’re glad you asked.

Spotlight vs Flashlight

When you and I are educating and advocating as part of our day-to-day exchange with individuals, it’s like shining a flashlight on food allergies. There’s a concentrated stream of light on the issues and challenges we face. We’re talking to a person or small group of people and we’re likely focused on the specific needs of one specific allergic person. 

Participating in Food Allergy Awareness Month/Week is more like shining a spotlight on food allergies. It’s joining our voice with many others – including advocacy groups like FARE, FAACT, and others. It’s advocating not just for our own needs, but raising awareness about something that impacts over 33 million Americans. 

Where the (Literal) Light Shines

Across North America monuments and major attractions will be lighting up teal, literally. In previous years, well-known spaces like Niagara Falls and the Empire State Building have turned their evening lights teal in honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week. 

Look for social media mentions and photos of the lit up notable spaces and share it! If you’re local to such a spot, take your own picture and share it as a public post on your social media platforms. Share why the recognition is meaningful for you. 

Highlight Your Story

Use the platforms you have to share your family’s story. Invite others to support families like yours by offering practical tips. Sure, this might mean you’re posting to social media. It may mean that you or your child work with their teacher to give a food allergy presentation to the class. You and your child may also share that same food allergy presentation with their Scout troop, team, playgroup, or other organized activity. 

Use Facts and Reputable Resources

There are two important things to keep in mind as you start to advocate: 

  1. There’s a fine line between fear and respect when it comes to food allergies. 
  2. The right way to manage food allergies varies by patient and is identified by the family and their allergist. 

What does this look like? For one thing, we want to lean into respecting the dangers associated with food allergies without leaning too far over into the realm of fear. That’s necessary for our own healthy relationship with allergy management, as well as garnering support from others. Stick with facts, supported by reputable sources and research. Understand what you really need to be safe, vs. what your fear tells you that you need. 

As an example, there needs to be some direct contact with an allergen to trigger a reaction. For some folks, yes, that could mean that walking into a space where milk is being steamed can be a challenge. It may mean sitting next to the buffet table where shellfish is being kept warm on a chafing dish triggers a response of some sort. It might mean that skin contact with your allergen causes localized itching and a rash that can be cleared with soap and water. 

A fear response would say that no one can bring anything at all containing your allergens into a room or space you’re going to be in. A respect response may be, if someone is consuming your allergens, hands and common surfaces must be washed and distance must be kept if there is a risk of dust from nut shells or cheese curls, or heated steam and vapor.

The other piece of this is to remember that individuals with food allergies have specific allergy action plans based on their lifestyle, comfort level, environment, and medical needs. It’s something they’ve (hopefully) coordinated with their allergist. And it may not look exactly like yours. 

Some families, as an example, avoid all foods with cross contamination labeling. If it says “made in a facility that also manufactures soy, milk, and egg,” they won’t eat it. If the package says “may contain the following: peanut, milk, egg, wheat,” they won’t eat it. Other families, however, are willing to keep products with those labels in their diet and they’ve got their reasons for doing so.

It’s important when we advocate for others that we encourage our friends and associates to ask individuals how to best support them and not just assume that the way their neighbor, cousin, or you manage food allergies is a one-size-fits-all solution. 

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