Here's the first installation written by a friend and Joy of Fitness Buddy Training client that helps shows us how we can be an everyday hero just by being aware and thoughtful of the needs of others around us as we celebrate this holiday season and beyond.
How to Be an Everyday Hero
(by Amy Lin)
When I was a kid, I loved adventure stories. I often imagined myself as the hero(ine), riding to the rescue, capturing the bad guys, saving lives, maybe receiving a medal or two for my quick thinking and derring-do. As parents, all of us instinctively want to protect our kids from anything that could hurt them: car accidents, lead paint, house fires, sharp objects, hot stovetops... the list is practically infinite. But even in my vivid imagination, there are few things more terrifying than an unknown illness that sends your baby to the ER, limbs and face swollen, covered with hives, and screaming in fear and pain. That's how my husband and I found out that our daughter is one of the 12 million Americans who have food allergies (for her, it’s dairy, eggs, and sesame). We were devastated to learn that, unlike seasonal allergies, food allergies can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that includes constriction of the airways and an extreme drop in blood pressure. "Your child could die" is something no parent ever wants to hear.
The scariest aspect of food allergies is that any food, seemingly innocuous and even healthy for most people, may be a deadly toxin to someone who is allergic to it — the most dangerous kind of threat is the one that is perceived as harmless. Everyone knows that poisons such as weed killer and drain cleaner shouldn’t be consumed, so these substances are kept safely away from kids, and the chance of ingesting them at a school or child care center is next to nil. But things like milk, wheat, and nuts are part of the human diet, and most people consider them safe. For this very reason, they pose a grave risk for those with food allergies, especially children.
What does all this have to do with heroism? Well, we now realize that we have scores of heroes in our day-to-day lives — people who help us keep our daughter safe. As she approaches school age, we find ourselves more and more concerned about how we can continue to protect her. We know we'll have to rely more and more on these heroes, and so we’re extremely grateful to have them.
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• Family members who religiously wash their hands with soap and water
• Friends who ask about food allergies when inviting us to their houses
• Parents who forgive our overprotectiveness of our food-allergic child
• Hosts who aren’t offended when our child can’t eat food they prepared
• Kids who look out for their buddies with food allergies
• Doctors and nurses who help us prepare for allergy emergencies
• Teachers and caregivers who learn how to use an epinephrine injector
• Work colleagues who share allergen-free recipes
• Restaurants who educate their staff about the seriousness of food allergies
• Last but definitely not least, the eagle-eyed moms in our daughter’s playgroup, who always track down the stray Pepperidge Farm Goldfish!
You can become one of these heroes, too. You may not receive any medals for valor, but you might save a life... and you'll be appreciated much, much more than you'll ever know.
Three easy things you can do to earn the eternal gratitude of a parent with a food-allergic child this holiday season and beyond:
WASH YOUR HANDS thoroughly with soap and water after eating, and teach your child to do the same. This will prevent food particles and possible allergens from being transferred to surfaces that an allergic child might come into contact with.
BE AWARE AND ALERT. If you're hosting an event involving food, find out whether your guests have any food allergies. If you know a child has a food allergy, try to keep watch when he or she is around those foods, especially in the case of very young children who don't yet understand that what they eat could hurt them. Their parents are probably hovering nearby, but they can always use an extra pair of eyes — we all know kids are lightning-fast when it comes to food!
LEARN TO RECOGNIZE the symptoms of an allergic reaction. It usually starts with hives and itchiness, and may lead to swelling of the tongue and throat, abdominal cramps, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and even loss of consciousness. Someone who has a known, severe food allergy will likely have an epinephrine injector (EpiPen or Twinject) on hand. It’s very easy to use — instructions are printed on the injector itself. Call 911 immediately afterward.
For more information about food allergies, please visit The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.