The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network's Walk for Food Allergy

By Cade McDonald
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network's Walk for Food Allergy Today over 12 million people in the United States suffer from food allergies, and most of them are school-age children. Food allergy is a growing public health and safety concern, and researchers report that food allergy diagnoses have doubled over the past decade. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis (a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction) outside of the hospital setting. Strict avoidance of allergenic foods is the only way to prevent a reaction.

As a mother of two food-allergic children, Justine Chiang is passionate about food allergy awareness and education. That's why she is co-chair of Atlanta's Walk for Food Allergy, an event organized by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) to raise money and awareness. Proceeds from the Walk for Food Allergy will help fund education and research programs.
"This year's Atlanta Food Allergy Walk is one of 18 fundraising walks across the country, and this is the first year that Atlanta is taking part," says Chiang. "The FAAN Walk in Atlanta will be held on Saturday, November 4 in the heart of Atlanta at Piedmont Park, Atlanta's favorite in-town park. It will be a family friendly event and will consist of a three-mile walk and fun activities, including a moon bounce for kids, a DJ, a magician, and more."

"People don't realize that living with food allergies affects every aspect of life," continues Chiang. "We very rarely eat out. We can't go anywhere without being a bit nervous; just taking my kids to the park makes me a little uneasy knowing that there may be children there with peanut butter residue on their hands from having just eaten a PBJ sandwich, an American favorite. Birthday parties are always stressful and school is an ongoing challenge. All this is to say that children who live with food allergies have to be cautious with almost everything they do outside their home. But they are otherwise normal, healthy, happy kids who just want to be like any other kid. They can lead normal, safe lives, but it certainly helps when those around them are aware of their health issue and are understanding and supportive. That is one of the main goals of the Walk for Food Allergy: to raise awareness. Until there is a cure, awareness is key to keeping food allergic children safe."

Chiang's oldest daughter, now 4, is severely allergic to a number of foods. Chiang explains, "When we first learned about her food allergies when she was one year old, I felt frantic and somewhat helpless. In addition to food being a basic necessity of life, realizing that in a world where almost every social event involves food, I knew it was not going to be easy raising a child with severe food allergies. I went on a search for information to learn more about the disease and how to help my daughter. That is when I learned about and joined FAAN. Through FAAN's newsletters, 1-800 number, and website, my husband and I learned more about our daughter's health issue—from how serious and dangerous food allergies can be to how to live safely with them. We continue to stay on top of food allergy issues, research, and legislation through FAAN and get great tips for keeping our children safe."

Chiang's daughters' food allergies showed up as eczema, a skin rash, when they were infants and toddlers. Her oldest daughter also vomited frequently before they discovered all her food allergies. Chiang says, "People may think eczema or an upset stomach is not that big of a deal, but when your child is scratching herself raw to the point she can't wash her hands because it hurts and wakes up 2-3 times a night because she is so itchy (that is the result of bad eczema), you soon realize that living with a rash from food allergies is painful and hard. We've never had a personal experience with anaphylaxis but know that our daughter is at high risk for it with her peanut allergy, and maybe with her allergy to nuts and shellfish. We've heard stories from friends and acquaintances with food-allergic children who have experienced anaphylaxis, and we know it was one of the scariest experiences for them. And sadly, we have heard and read about fatal food allergy reactions."

Please see our article Managing Food Allergies in Children for more tips.

Visit the FAAN website to learn more about the organization and sign up for a FAAN Walk for Food Allergy in your area.


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