Recently, 15-year-old Diallo Robbins-Brinson died in an Atlanta hospital. No, he wasn't in a car accident. What Diallo did was something we all do every day without even thinking.
He ate a cookie.
Apparently Diallo had a severe peanut allergy that could cause him to stop breathing. Thing is, he didn't eat a peanut butter cookie, it was a white chocolate with Macadamia nuts one. The same kind he'd had countless times before at a buffet restaurant with his soccer team. Since Diallo was so used to avoiding peanuts, though, he no longer carried around his EpiPen. When he had that allergic reaction, he didn't have the medicine that could've saved his life.
Diallo's story hits real close to home since our 9-year-old son has severe food allergies to tree nuts and seeds. Being a parent is exhausting enough without having to worry that your child's next bite could be his last.
Thankfully we haven't dealt with a severe reaction yet, just various hives merely from touching nuts. But it's amazing how many people out there just don't "get it." They don't realize, can't even fathom, the seriousness and frightening aspects of having food allergies. Even a tiny trace of the allergen can trigger a reaction that warrants a hospital visit... or something far worse.
More from The Stir: 4 Great Tips For Living With Kids' Food Allergies (VIDEO)
You can say your child's allergic to nuts and most people know not to hand him a box of Honey Nut Cheerios. But what if the word "nut" isn't in the product's name? Ingredient labels are increasingly tougher to read without a microscope, and even then, there's no uniform way for listing the allergic ingredients on the packaging.
Grocery shopping for us easily takes twice, maybe three times as long, since my wife and I need to double and triple check every single label. And what about seeds? You can think to avoid obvious ones like sesame seeds which you can see with the naked eye. But I no longer have mustard on my hot dogs, since it's made from mustard seeds. And then there's the school projects, like growing sunflower seeds in the classroom.
Right now, my son's still young and my wife and I are very protective of him. Overprotective of him even. It doesn't matter if we're talking to our close friends or relatives, we'll still explain our son's allergies to them. Every. Single. Time. We get lots of defensive "I knows" and more than our fair share of eye rolls, but we no longer care. We have to be vigilant. We have to be annoying. It's his life we're talking about here.
And our greatest fear right now is just looking ahead to his teenage years when he'll think he no longer needs to carry around an EpiPen because he "knows" what foods he should avoid. Hopefully Diallo's death can at least prevent many others, by reminding kids and parents alike that allergies are deadly serious.
Do you know someone with allergies? How do you help keep them safe?