Having Empathy for Those With Tree Nut Allergies

Set of cartoon hand drawn objects on nuts theme: hazelnut, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, peanut

I love peanut butter. Trail mix is my favorite snack. I add nuts to salads, pastas, and baked goods constantly. We are a nut-loving family and this powerful protein is practically its own food group in our household. However, there is one thing that makes us go cold turkey on the tree-nuts: hearing that someone we know is allergic to them. I’m lucky to have three kids that can eat PB&Js whenever they want, but I do know a few families that do not have this type of luxury. Hearing about the constant worry that surrounds their everyday life has made me take notice and be more empathetic to their struggles.

I know a seven-year-old named Grace who has an anaphylaxis allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. Her mother explained that this is a life-threatening condition. She told me, “We don’t avoid nuts because they make her feel bad – it’s because they literally could kill her.” Grace has had two major scares in connection with her allergy, and one time it came from skin contact alone, not ingestion.

Grace’s family and others in this situation do more than fret, they borderline agonize over keeping their child safe. To quote Grace’s mom again, “We worry all the time. All. The. Time.” Imagine routinely having to re-think what should be a normal activity. Every time you were brave enough to go out to eat, you would be required to locate a restaurant that was accommodating, speak with the kitchen staff, and wipe down tables and chairs as a precaution. I can barely do half these steps at home, let alone somewhere that requires you to pay for the food service.

What about flying with a peanut allergy? Well, it’s an option, but it takes a lot of preparation and precaution. Even with consistent diligence, a person in this situation can never truly relax. My friend says that they have had good success with Delta and Southwest because these airlines allow them to pre-board. The airlines will also make an announcement over the loudspeaker and are very good about sanitizing. Still, you can’t let your guard down and must always carry an expensive but potentially life-saving epi-pen.

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Think about all of the headaches parents go through when it comes to taking kids on an airplane. Upgrade that headache to a migraine if you’re flying with a little one that has a food allergy. It would be so difficult to be on constant guard in everyday life, but even worse while catching a flight for vacation because you’re also dealing with issues of squirmy children that don’t want to sit in their seats, potential airport delays, and the possibility of being surrounded by…

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