“You Can Live a Normal Life with Food Allergies”: FAACT CEO Discusses New Awareness Campaign

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) and American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) recently launched a new public service campaign aimed at building awareness about accurate food allergy diagnosis and management.

The campaign, which is supported by a grant from the National Peanut Board, grew out of research we conducted in late 2013 about Americans’ understanding of food allergy. In that study, we learned that many people self-diagnose, or turn to someone other than a board-certified allergist. Moreover, nearly half of people who say they have food allergies don’t carry recommended epinephrine.

Through public service advertising and earned and social media, consumers will be invited to visitwww.livingwithfoodallergies.org to learn more and hear from experts and allergy families alike.

Eleanor Garrow Holding, president & CEO of FAACT, shares her perspective on the purpose and importance of developing a proper food allergy diagnosis and management campaign in this Q&A:

Why is a campaign around proper diagnosis and management so important?

It’s so important because you want to be able to manage accurately. You want to be able to have everything in your child’s diet that you possibly can, rather than restricting something that they can still have. When my son, Thomas, was first diagnosed, we did not have that family history or the knowledge of food allergies and anaphylaxis, so we felt very alone. I don’t ever want families to feel like that because there’s so much support and education out there and resources from FAACT and other organizations that are available to them.

When you meet families who just found out that their child has been diagnosed with a food allergy, what do you say to help them navigate?

When I first meet families that are newly diagnosed—no matter what age their child may be—I tell them they’re not alone. I’ve been there and believe me I completely felt alone in the beginning but I found that there are so many resources, individuals and groups out there that will help you and be there for you.

If they think they or their child might have a food allergy, I would want them to see a board-certified allergist. They are the experts. Get that accurate testing and diagnosis done so you know how to manage moving forward with your pediatrician guidance as well.

If there’s one piece of advice you could give to a parent raising a food allergic child; what do you think the most important piece of advice is?

The most important advice I would give a family with children with food allergies is to educate. Educate yourself, your families, your friends, your schools, babysitters, anyone that comes into contact with your child on a day-to-day basis who needs to be familiar with signs and symptoms, how to react in case of an emergency, how to administer epinephrine and to call 911. Also, reading labels and ingredients is a must as labels change daily and no matter what and where you are, at a minimum, always carry two epinephrine auto injectors at all times; never leave home without them.

Being educated and aware in how to manage on a day-to-day basis is very important and that’s what I try to instill in many of the families and individuals that I meet. This is manageable, you can do this, you can live a normal life, day to day, you can go to restaurants, you can travel, you can go to school—it’s all about education.

Livingwithfoodallergies.org serves as a resource for properly diagnosing and managing food allergies. We encourage you to spread the word to those who think they might have food allergies and those who do. We are all in this together.