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Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

Alexa and Katie is about two best friends are how they navigate high-school, grades, boys, but most of all, how they deal when one of them is diagnosed with Cancer. It is one of my favorite shows to throw on. When I see the red ‘new episodes’ sign in the corner or the picture – I immediately curl in to binge watch them all – I mean they are only 20 minutes long! The show hits on some really sensitive subject matter. In between the light girl talk of boys and basketball are the issues of chemo, hair loss and all of the feelings that go along with that. This is a show I would be proud to show my daughter. It teaches kids and teens to be brave, inclusive and kind. It treats disabilities and challenges with respect. At least it did…

My husband and I were sitting down, relaxing after a long day, watching the Christmas episode of the latest season – Episode 5 – All I Want for Christmas is You – when all of a sudden we both froze. This show, about medical needs and acceptance, made an EPI pen joke. 

One of the customers in the coffee shop asks Katie (who works as a barista) for more foam on her latte. Katie being frazzled and frustrated grabs some nutmeg and sprinkles it all over her coffee. The customer then says “Nutmeg, eh I have my EPI Pen” – cue laugh track. And the show moves on. 

This is not funny. Laughing about an allergy or an EPI Pen is not a cool way to get laughs. You know what the show did do? It made light of something very serious. It let kids and teenagers and adults know “hey you can give me what could KILL me as long as I have my EPI pen.”

I wonder if Netflix or the show Alexa & Katie had any clue that every 3 minutes, a reaction due to food allergies sends someone to the Emergency Room. Did they know that if someone consumes their allergen, use of an EPI pen needs to be done within minutes and may need to be done with more than one EPI Pen. Finally, did they know that EPI pens do not work every time – or maybe I should send them over the list of children that have died because they didn’t have their EPI pen present or they didn’t get to it in time.

Did they know that 1 in 3 children – yes 1 in 3 kids – are bullied because of their food allergy and if the child has more than one food allergy, over half reported being bullied because of it. Take those facts and factor in that a widely watched television show finds that food allergies are okay to joke about and what do we have? More media making my daughter feel silly for her medical condition. More outlets making parents feel like they cant trust others because they may be looked down upon for protecting their child.

As a food allergy mom, I struggle with a lot of anxiety. And as I read through these food allergy facts, I learned that I am not alone. Parents of children under the age of 5 have significantly higher blood pressure and report high levels of psychosocial stress then moms of kids without food allergies. Most parents avoid restaurants all together. More than 1/4 of food allergy parents surveyed said that their kids don’t participate in sleep overs or camps, don’t go to restaurants and 10% avoid play dates with friends. This is all because of food allergies. These statistics should be enough to make the world stop joking about a world wide epidemic and start taking notice about how many families deal with this on a daily basis. 

This joke took up exactly 12 seconds of the show but is forever burned into my mind. To everyone who doesn’t deal with food allergies on a daily basis, this joke let their sub-conscience minds know that food allergies are curable and can be handled with the simple use of an EPI pen. And to all of us that deal with food allergies every single day, the joke increases that anxiety just that much more.

We can make the difference that the media is not having the courage to make. Take this opportunity to talk with your kids. Let them know how serious food allergies are. 

**Food Allergy Research and Education, Facts and Statistics**