There is not a doubt in my mind that this is what young people hear when their “old” parents attempt to give advise about college, dating and life surrounding safe living with food allergies. Many young adults have been living with food allergies for years and for the most part, are managing pretty darn well with a nice support system.
BUT, now it’s time to fly solo at college while not taking for granted the smooth sailing thus far is partly due to the current support system. At college, the support system will need to be established. The question rises, “how do we impact our teens to take their food allergies and/or asthma even more seriously at college while balancing their new life”? How, as parents, do we inspire them to embrace their food allergy management plan in new uncharted territory?
Speaking for myself, I learn best from real life stories and examples. Nothing hits my heart faster that a dose of reality versus what might occur. For years my parents warned that I might drown if I get into a swimming a pool right after eating, I fearfully stayed away from swimming after eating until I was old enough to do some research to determine, yes, I might get cramps, but no, I will certainly not sink to the bottom of the pool. If there wasn’t a real life story, then I needed some good old fashioned stats and research.
Powerful Food Allergy Articles and Conversations For College Aged Students.
Note: Although I am a huge fan of reality, I found it critical to ease my college and soon-to-be high school student into these articles and stories. Fear is a funny thing. The gift of fear is that it causes you to give pause and pay attention when needed, the negative side of fear is that too much unfounded fear can stop us in our boots. When my kids were younger, my family has sought our professional help in sorting out how to determine real threats versus perceived threats. It was worth every penny and every minute!
- Invincible. Justin Laslavsky truly does a great service to college students nationwide with his article about common avoidable mistakes made which lead to an anaphylatic reaction, “Cashew-Containing Kale Chips Teaches EMT He’s Not Invincible”. There were several easy-to-avoid choices he made that brought him to a dangerous situation.
- Hazing-Parties-Alcohol. In this hazing situation, “Student Charged with Hazing in Peanut Butter Allergy Case?” there are many unclear factors, such as was alcohol involved, did participants know of the victim’s food allergy, were participants knowledgeable regarding food allergies? Nevertheless, there many great learning opportunities and points of discussion. For my family, the conversation was around several items:
- Alcohol and food allergies – Can you be drunk and identify a reaction? Can you be drunk and label read or control yourself to not eat dangerous foods? Can you easily determine if the drink contains your allergens, such as Bailey’s Irish Cream, which contains dairy. Will you be able to self administer or call for emergency help?
- Friend group – Does your crew know how to identify when you are having a reaction? Do they know where your epinephrine auto-injector is located and can they use it? Do they understand the your personal rule: administer EPI and call 911–no trying to drive to the hospital unless you are driving to meet the ambulance or emergency services (think camping or being in a more remote area).
- Hosts – Do your hosts know about your allergies? Do they know what to do if something goes wrong?
- Trust – Do you trust your friend group or hosts to respond accordingly? Do they have your back or are they the ones you need to peel off the ground and take home?
- Kissing. This 2014 article, “Kissing With Food Allergies” mentioned 5-12% of a patients surveyed did experience an allergic reaction when there was kissing shortly after eating an allergen. Bummer. BUT, in 2016, the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) share this little gem, “Kissing Can Cause Allergic Reactions,” the sweet ending in this piece are the details of to avoid the kissing based reaction in the first place!
- Must Carry. If possible, college students should have back up epinephrine auto-injectors in their dorm room while carrying two (in case two are needed or if one misfires). This story is quite unnerving, but no one said life with food allergies didn’t have a sobering side. Millions of Americans manage great lives with with food allergies and this is where we rejoice daily. Although this situation is rare, the wake up call is clear: slow down when the situation is new and exciting and treat your EPI like your phone, never be caught without it. My heart still drops when I read this article, “Canadian Student Dies After Ordering Smoothie on Campus; Suffers Severe Allergic Reaction: Family”. The discussions brought up in my family were:
- Reminders – What actions do my kids take to jog their memory to walk out of the door with their epinephrine auto-injectors with them? A note taped on their door? EPI’s stored with room key cards? Can they keep an extra set in their backpack or purse? Note: Aterica is getting ready to launch the Veta sometime in 2017, this smartcase EpiPen® carrier will remind patients if they walked away too far from their EpiPen®?
- Eating Out. The horrible tragedy from above provides a double lesson, sadly. Food allergy management is all about risk reduction and living a full life. We don’t know the details of what questions the young woman asked about allergens in her smoothie, but this tragic situation lays the ground work to discuss how do we ask questions, how do we vet the answers and what are the high risk off limited places based on allergens and the realistic ability to properly clean equipment?
- Friends REALLY ARE friends. When we visited my son for parent’s weekend at college, we enjoyed lunch with a friend of his. The young man shared that his own brother was with a friend, in a dorm room, when the friend ate popcorn containing the tree nut he was allergic to. The pal went into anaphyalxis and the, “longest two minutes of my life” took place as friends tore through the room looking for the EpiPen® After he told the story, he asked my son where does he carry his EpiPen®. Friends really don’t want to be placed in scary situations. If they like you enough to spend with you, most like they will want to save you too.
What stories or articles do you share with your soon-to-be or current college student to help drive home your point? Or do you use a different method to each self-care and awareness. Please share below your methods, we all learn from each other’s experiences.