GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Parents know what it feels like to send their kids off to school for the first time. Parents of kids with food allergies have those emotions and more.
“It’s a scary thing to send a kid to school for several reasons. But then to wonder if they’re going to have to be rushed to the ER, if they’re going to live through the day or not. That’s really what it becomes. Will they live through the day when you send them off and they’re in 1st grade and have lunch at school. It’s scary,” said mother of four, Debbie Gair.
Gair is as cool as they come when it comes to dealing with her kids food allergies. Of her four children, two of them have food allergies, which amounts to no peanuts, sunflower, tree nuts and sesame.
“Lots of time we find its easier to say ‘No thank you.’ Another rule we have is ‘No label, no thank you.'”
Gair’s daughter, 12-year-old Beka, was her second child to be diagnosed with food allergies.
As a result, they’ve worked with Dr. Karyn Gell from Grand Rapids Allergy for a long time.
“It’s everything that goes in your mouth. You’re always wondering is this going to kill me? And that’s just stress, man. It’s big stress,” said Dr. Gell.
A big stress and a big deal.
If you think more kids have food allergies these days than years ago, you’re right.
A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two years ago found food allergies among children increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.
There are theories for the dramatic rise. One of them is the hygiene theory. As we as a society do better staying away from germs and bacteria, infections have gone down while food allergies have spiked.
According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), researchers believe 15 million Americans have food allergies and one in every 13 children under 18 in the U.S. is affected.
So the Gair family is certainly not alone.
“We figure we have to learn how to live with this food allergy issue and reality is you can’t put yourself in a bubble all the time,” said Gair.
Part of living with food allergies is knowing and accepting the power of epinephrin.
Dr. Gell likes to say “epinephrin everywhere.”
12-year-old Beka was introduced to the relief epinephrin provides in kindergarten and knows it can save her life.
“I put them in my backpack and so I just carry my backpack around. At school to every class and to lunch so yeah, they’re with me all the time,” said Beka.
Beginning with this school year, each public and non-public school in Michigan must have at least two EpiPens in the building.
“An accident will happen. The rate national is about 50 percent per year have an accident. That’s a lot,” said Dr. Gell. “If you just know what to do and keep calm, you can save a life. Epinephrin is magical. It works beautifully.”
The Food and Drug Administration is currently urging anyone with a peanut allergy to avoid the spice cumin and any product that contains cumin because trace amounts of peanut have been found in cumin spice.
The recall has been going on since December, but more and more retailers are identifying products that contain the potentially tainted cumin.
The Food and Drug Administration said it has received at least seven reports related to the cumin recall.
Hundreds of products have been recalled from spice mixes to black beans to meats with marinades that include cumin. The spice is often used in Tex-Mex and Indian dishes.